Flu season is always a stressful time of year, particularly for parents! We want to do all we can to keep our kids healthy this time of year, but with school and activities, it can be hard. But for parents of kids with asthma, flu season can be downright scary. Asthma can complicate even the common cold, and when it comes to the flu (which is already a serious illness), complications can arise quickly. Children with asthma are at an especially high risk of developing serious flu complications, which makes this a very worrisome time of year for parents of kids with asthma. Here's what you need to know about flu and asthma, and how you can better protect your kids with asthma during flu season.
Flu and asthma: what are the complications?
Common symptoms of the flu include cough and respiratory distress, even in otherwise healthy people. For kids with asthma, this can cause some very serious complications. People with asthma already have swollen and/or sensitive airways, and the flu can cause even more inflammation in the airways and even the lungs. Respiratory infection caused by flu can trigger an asthma attack, and make existing asthma symptoms worse. Kids with asthma are more likely to develop pneumonia as a flu complication; in fact, asthma is the most common medical condition in children hospitalized with the flu or complications from the flu.
How can you protect your child with asthma during flu season?
To best protect your child with asthma during flu season, make sure they get their annual flu shot. Flu shots for kids with asthma are especially important, because of the higher risk of developing serious complications. Getting the flu shot annually will keep your child protected against the most common strains of the virus, and insure that their immunity doesn't wane.
The injectable flu vaccine is approved for kids 6 months and older, regardless of their health history or whether or not they have asthma. The nasal spray vaccine should not be given to kids with asthma between the ages of 2 and 4, and experts do not recommend the nasal spray for kids with a history of wheezing in the last 12 months. The nasal spray vaccine may increase the risk of wheezing in people with asthma, so make sure to talk to your doctor about which flu vaccine is right for your child with asthma.
Talk to your doctor about the pneumonia vaccine for your child with asthma
In addition to making sure your child gets their annual flu vaccine, you may want to talk to your doctor about whether or not the pneumococcal vaccine is right for your child with asthma. There are two different vaccines: pneumococcal conjugate vaccine or PCV13, and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine or PPSV23. PCV13 recommended for all kids under the age of 2, and for people over the age of 2 with certain medical conditions. PPSV23 is recommended for kids over the age of 2 with certain medical conditions. Talk to your doctor about which pneumococcal vaccine is right for your child. It can be an added bit of protection during flu season.
Other precautions you can take when it comes to flu and asthma
Even if your child gets the flu shot and pneumonia vaccine, there are still day-to-day measures you should take to protect them during flu season. If they are prescribed daily asthma medication, make sure they take it everyday as directed. Make sure they always have an inhaler on-hand, and keep an extra in the car or in your purse or bag in case they need it and don't have theirs. Avoid asthma triggers as much as possible. If you have an Asthma Action Plan, make sure it's up-to-date at your child's school, daycare, or other places they spend time. If you don't have one, talk to your doctor about creating one for your child.
Because the flu can be serious for kids with asthma, it's important to seek medical attention right away if your child starts exhibiting symptoms of the flu. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, chills, and fatigue. Given within 48 hours of onset, antiviral drugs like Tamiflu can lessen the severity of flu.