Increased Influenza Cases Put Asthma Sufferers On High Alert

People with asthma have swollen or sensitive airways, and further inflammation by an influenza illness could trigger an attack or worsening symptoms.

January 18, 2018 | 2 min reading time

The City of St. Louis Department of Health reports 1,848 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza in the City since October 1, 2017. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says a diagnosis of an influenza infection can be more serious for people with asthma, even if their asthma is mild or symptoms are well-controlled by medication. People with asthma have swollen or sensitive airways, and further inflammation by an influenza illness could trigger an asthma attack or worsening asthma symptoms. Adults and children with asthma are also more likely to develop pneumonia after getting sick with the flu. The Department of Health joins the CDC in recommending these steps to fight the flu if you have asthma:

  • Get the flu vaccine and make sure children six months and older receive the vaccine
  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care. Stay away from other people who are sick.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and throw the tissue away. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow or shoulder, not your bare hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth (germs are spread that way).
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.
  • Follow an updated written Asthma Action Plan developed by your doctor.
  • If your child has asthma, make sure that his or her up-to-date written Asthma Action Plan is on file at school or the daycare center. Be sure that the plan and medication(s) are easy to get to when needed.
  • If you do get sick with flu symptoms, call your doctor early in the illness. Treatment should begin as soon as possible because antiviral drug treatment works best when started early (within 48 hours after symptoms start).

Asthma is one of the costly diseases in the United States with over $20.7 million in hospital charges in 2013 for children in Missouri. It cannot be cured, only controlled. Asthma triggers vary from person to person, but common triggers include:

  • Dust
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Cockroach droppings
  • Pets
  • Mold and mildew
  • Exercise
  • Outdoor air pollution
  • Pollen
  • Bad weather
  • Some chemicals (fumes, odors, and strong scents)
  • Food allergies

Asthma is diagnosed following an examination by a doctor, which involves a breathing test to see how a person’s lungs are working. If you have concerns about asthma, the flu, or other respiratory issues, it is best to speak to your healthcare provider. 

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