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Millions of Americans get the flu every year. If you have asthma, getting the flu can also mean more frequent and more severe asthma attacks while you are sick. Here’s what you need to know to protect your health during flu season.
About the Flu
The flu or influenza is a respiratory illness that can be caused by a variety of influenza viruses. The flu is contagious which means it can spread from one person to another.
The flu is considered to be a seasonal condition. Outbreaks are most common in the United States from fall through spring, peaking in January or February.
Every year, millions of people in the United States get the flu. Some people have mild symptoms including fever, coughing, sore throat, runny nose, head and body aches, and fatigue.
Flu symptoms can also be severe and can lead to serious complications including pneumonia and acute respiratory disease. Each year, an average of 36,000 people in the United States die as a result of the flu.
Asthma is a chronic condition that makes breathing difficult. Because the flu is also a respiratory condition, catching the flu can make asthma symptoms worse and can cause flare-ups or asthma attacks.
During an attack, the airways in the lungs become inflamed and swollen and produce extra mucus. At the same time, the muscles around the airways clamp down, making the air passages smaller. This can make breathing difficult and in severe cases can lead to death.
Treatment for the flu begins with preventing infection from the flu virus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months or older should receive the flu vaccine.
Each year, a special vaccine is created to provide the best match as researchers predict which strains of the flu virus will be most prevalent for the current flu season. Because there are many types of flu virus, getting a flu vaccine one year will not protect from the flu in future years.
The flu vaccine is available in two forms: as a shot and as a nasal mist.