Because asthma is considered one of the high-risk conditions for influenza infections -- both seasonal flu and H1N1 or swine flu -- the flu shot is essential. The flu shot not only reduces your chance of infection, but also will reduce your risk of complications from the flu.
Respiratory flu infections are more serious in asthma patients, causing swelling and inflammation in the lungs that may lead to worsening symptoms, such as:
In addition to worsening your asthma symptoms, the flu may lead to infections like pneumonia or bronchitis. In fact, adults and children with asthma are more likely to be hospitalized with acute respiratory infections during flu outbreaks than patients without asthma.
Which Flu Vaccine Is Recommended For Preventing Flu in Asthmatics?
Because a flu vaccination is the single best tool in preventing flu in asthmatics, it is important to know which vaccination is best for you. There are currently two available flu vaccines:
- Intramuscular flu shot that is an inactivated vaccine
- Nasal flu vaccine (Flumist), which is a live attenuated vaccine
In general, asthmatics should receive the intramuscular flu shot, rather than the nasal flu vaccine. Depending on your age, you may need more than one injection, or a different dose.
Why Can't I Get the Intra-nasal Flu Vaccine?
The nasal flu vaccine is not currently recommended for asthmatics because there is concern that inhaling the vaccine may lead to an asthma exacerbation. The package insert, in fact, warns against giving the vaccine to young asthmatics or anyone who has recently wheezed.
Centers For Disease Control & Prevention. Accessed September 25, 2009. Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine
Ford ES, Mannino DM, Williams AG. Accessed September 25, 2009. Asthma and Influenza Vaccination Chest September 2003 vol. 124 no. 3 783-789.
Rank MA, Li JT. Clinical pearls for preventing, diagnosing, and treating seasonal and 2009 H1N1 influenza infection in patients with asthma. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Accessed October 24, 2009.