The Flu and Asthma


Flu season can be especially problematic for individuals with asthma. The influenza virus causes inflammation and swelling in the lungs that create additional concerns for asthma suffers as compared to individuals with otherwise healthy lungs. Adhering to your asthma action plan, and taking the following precautions can help you avoid severe complications if the flu should strike.

Why Should I Be Concerned?

The swelling and inflammation in the lungs triggered by the flu can exacerbate asthma symptoms. Asthma patients are also more likely to develop pneumonia and other acute respiratory conditions while suffering from the flu. Children and adults with asthma are more likely to be hospitalized as a result of these respiratory infections than individuals without asthma.

What You Can Do:

The first step in avoiding the flu and its potential complications is to get annual flu vaccines and pneumonia vaccines as recommended by your physician. If you do get the flu, you should see your doctor as soon as possible after your symptoms develop to reduce the risk of serious complications. A class of drugs known as antivirals is used to treat the flu and can be very effective in reducing the severity and duration of symptoms. Depending on the strain of flu, the doctor may prescribe one or more of the following antivirals:

  • Tamiflu/oseltamivir
  • Relenza/zanamivir
  • Flumadine/rimantidine


As a general rule, antivirals are most effective if started within 48 hours after symptoms develop; however, asthma patients may still benefit from the therapy even after 48 hours.

What if I am Exposed to the Flu?

If you come in contact with someone infected with the flu, you should see your doctor as soon as possible, even if you don’t have symptoms. Asthma patients can reduce their chances of developing the flu if they receive the same antiviral medications used to treat the flu within 48 hours of exposure.

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