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Flu Shot and Asthma- Do I Need the Flu Shot If I Have Asthma

Flu Shot Limits Asthma Attacks and Flu Complications

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Updated March 15, 2009

Flu Shot and Asthma- Do I Need the Flu Shot If I Have Asthma
Photo: © George Frey/ Getty Images

The flu may not only make your asthma worse, but it may also cause you to make a visit to the ER, end up in the hospital or worse. Getting a flu shot may prevent all of these complications.

Anyone with asthma over the age of 6 months should get a flu shot every year according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta. Despite this recommendation, many people do not get flu shots. Here are a few of the reasons people use to rationalize not getting vaccinated and some explanation debunking their decisions:

I don't get sick: While you might not have gotten sick last year, the CDC estimates the flu sends 225,000 people to the hospital, and causes death in 35,000. Just because you did not get sick last year doesn't mean you won't get sick this year. The best time to get the flu vaccine is October or November and it takes about 2 weeks for you to develop full immunity.

I got sick from the vaccine: While there is a small chance people may develop some flu symptoms from the nasal flu vaccine because it is made from a live, weakened flu virus, the flu shot is made from a killed virus, so it cannot cause the flu. Importantly, the nasal vaccines are not FDA approved for patients with asthma. Taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen around the time of your flu shot can help prevent ay reactions from the flu vaccine.

I am scared of the side effects: Side effects are normally minor and include soreness or redness at the injection site, achiness, or a low-grade fever. People rarely develop a serious allergic reaction to the flu shot. And even more rarely, about one out of every 1 million people vaccinated may develop Guillain-Barre syndrome—a neurological disorder—as a complication. On the other hand, asthmatics who contract the flu are more likely to get pneumonia, an infection of the lungs, and experience severe breathing problems. Overall, because the risks of serious complications from the vaccine are so low and the risk of hospitalization and infection among high-risk individuals without vaccination are significant, the benefits of vaccination appear to outweigh the risks.

If I get the flu, I'll take the medicine: Typically, flu treatments only decrease flu symptoms by about one day and may not prevent the more serious complications.

Consider getting the flu shot- it's a whole lot easier than getting the flu!

Sources:

Asthma and Flu Shots. CDC. Accessed December 30, 2008. http://www.cdc.gov/asthma/flushot.htm

Getting The Flu Shot This Year. Consumer Reports Health.org. Accessed December 30, 2008. Top Excuses To Not Get The Flu Shot

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