Asthma is a lung disease that is caused by chronic inflammation of the airways, which can result in an asthma attack. During an attack, people experience symptoms such as wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing. Many things can trigger an asthma attack and one of the most common is the flu.
With flu season upon us, what impact can the flu have on those with asthma? According to the CDC, though people with asthma are not more likely to get the flu, an infection can be more serious for people with asthma, even if their asthma is mild or their symptoms are well-controlled by medication. An influenza infection can trigger asthma attacks and a worsening of asthma symptoms. It also can lead to pneumonia and other acute respiratory diseases. In fact, adults and children with asthma are more likely to develop pneumonia after getting sick with the flu than people who do not have asthma. Asthma is the most common medical condition among children hospitalized with the flu and one of the more common medical conditions among hospitalized adults.
If you have asthma, it is recommended that you get an annual influenza vaccine. Flu shots are generally recommended for people six months and older regardless of whether or not they have asthma. The flu shot has a long established safety record in people with asthma. In addition to getting the flu vaccine, proper hand-hygiene is strongly advised in order to prevent the spread of the flu.
If you do get sick with flu symptoms, speak with your doctor immediately to see if antiviral medications are an option for you. If prescribed, anti-viral drugs should be administered with 48 hours after the on-set of symptoms and can help minimize the effects of the flu. For people with asthma, this can help by reducing the risk of influenza from progressing into pneumonia or other respiratory diseases.
If you have asthma, and would like to receive a flu shot, please call Jamaica Hospital’s Ambulatory Care Center at 718-206-7001 to schedule an appointment or visit our website at www.jamaicahospital.org to find our closest MediSys Family Care Center to your home.
November is National COPD Awareness Month. This observance is an opportunity for everyone across the country to increase their overall awareness of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
COPD is a form of lung disease that makes breathing difficult. It is caused by damage to the lungs over a prolonged period of time and is usually attributed to smoking. COPD can result in serious, long term disability and is the third leading cause of death in the United States. It kills more than 120,000 Americans each year – that’s one death every four seconds and that number is increasing every year.
The most common symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, chronic cough, and difficulty performing simple daily tasks, such as climbing stairs.
Those most at risk of developing COPD are individuals who:
• Are over age 40 and currently smoke or smoked at some point
• Worked or lived around chemicals or fumes
• Have certain genetic conditions
If you think you have COPD, you should:
• Talk with your healthcare provider about your symptoms
• Request a breathing test, known as a spirometry
• Quit smoking! If you need help, ask your doctor
• Avoid pollutants or fumes that can irritate your lungs
While you can’t undo the damage COPD has caused to your lungs, there are steps you can take to prevent the condition from getting worse, such as:
• Taking medications as directed by your doctor
• Enrolling in a pulmonary rehabilitation program
• Avoiding factors that can irritate your lungs
• Receiving annual flu and pneumonia vaccines
The cold weather has arrived and aside from worrying about the flu and other upper respiratory infections, people who have asthma should also worry about an increased risk of experiencing an asthma attack. Are you one of the 25.5 million people who have asthma? If so, follow these helpful tips to prevent triggering asthma symptoms or attacks in the cold weather.
- Half hour prior to going out in the cold, take one or two puffs of your inhaler
- Wrap up well and wear a scarf over your nose and mouth – this will help to warm up the air before you breathe it in.
- Take extra care when exercising in cold weather. Warm up for 10-15 minutes and take one or two puffs of your inhaler before you start.
- If possible, avoid fireplaces. As cozy as the thought of a warm fireplace may sound, the burning wood smoke from the fireplace can trigger asthma symptoms or an asthma attack.
Often times, people stop taking medications because they do not feel any symptoms. If you are on medicines for asthma, consult with your doctor to see if you should continue taking them even when you are asymptomatic.
Create your asthma action plan and share it with your close friends and family. It may be a good idea to make sure your friends and family know what to do if you have an asthma attack and what symptoms to look for such as: coughing more than usual, getting short of breath, wheezing or having difficulty speaking in full sentences.
Remember, prevention is key and you can breathe easy knowing your are taking a proactive approach to your asthma condition. By keeping these tips in mind, being consistent with treatments and bundling up in the cold weather, you can still enjoy the winter months. If you need to speak to a physician about your asthma and plan of action, contact Jamaica Hospital’s Ambulatory Care Center to set an appointment at 718-206-7001.