How Does Asthma Interact with Flu and Covid-19?

Asthma presents all kinds of challenges: the need to monitor your environment for asthma triggers, moderate your exercise so that it doesn’t send your asthma out of control, and keep an inhaler close at all times. Then, there’s the fear that your asthma could flare into a full-blown attack at any time.

But even beyond these ongoing challenges, there’s the added worry that your asthma could increase your risk for complications from other illnesses.

How Does Asthma Interact with Flu and Covid-19?

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Flu and asthma

Flu, or influenza, is a viral infection that attacks the nose, throat, and lungs. It is spread by airborne respiratory droplets (think coughs or sneezes), through touching contaminated surfaces, through skin contact (such as shaking hands), and through saliva exchange (kissing, drinking from the same glass).

The tell-tale signs of flu include fever and chills, muscle aches, headaches, cough, a runny or stuffed-up nose, and fatigue. But when flu attacks the already swollen and sensitive airways of someone with asthma, it can make a bad situation worse. Flu causes increased swelling of the airways so that it becomes difficult for asthmatics to breathe. It also revs up mucus production, which further constricts breathing.

Most kids don’t have to go to the hospital because they have flu, but of those that do, asthma is the most common medical condition. In fact, a six-year study published in the medical journal Pediatrics found that one-third of children hospitalized with flu had asthma. And both children and adults with asthma are more likely to develop pneumonia after contracting the flu. They’re also more prone to sinus and ear infections after flu.

  • Preventing Flu

Although there’s no way to guarantee that you’ll stay flu-free, there are important steps you can take to minimize your risks. If you have asthma, it’s especially important that you get your flu vaccination. You should also adhere closely to your asthma treatment plan so that your asthma is well-controlled heading into flu season. And, of course, keep your hands away from your face, wash your hands, and disinfect surfaces.

COVID-19 and Asthma

Like influenza, COVID-19 targets the respiratory system (nose, throat, lungs). According to the AAAAI (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology), the majority of studies show that people with asthma are not at a greater risk for developing COVID, nor are they at a greater risk for disease severity. However, the AAAAI warns that the best thing that people with asthma can do during the current pandemic is to keep their asthma under control.

If patients get lax with their medications and have an allergy attack, they may have to go to the hospital. That will usher in other problems, such as increasing their exposure to COVID-19 patients—or even getting turned away if hospital beds are full.

  • Preventing COVID-19

We stand behind the CDC’s recommendations to vaccinate, wash hands, wear a mask, and social distance. Even though asthma has not been proven to increase COVID-19-associated risks, it can expose you to other unnecessary risks that can jeopardize your health.

Other Illnesses

Many other viruses have a heightened effect on people with asthma. For example, during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, 44% of all children hospitalized due to the virus had asthma. Even the common cold can send your asthma into overdrive. Roughly 75% of asthmatics say that their asthma symptoms worsen under the influence of a common cold, and it is not unusual for colds to turn asthma into a full-blown medical emergency.

Control Your Asthma

According to the American Thoracic Society, more than 60% of Americans with severe asthma are not getting adequate medical care to help them manage their disease. If you or someone you know is living with uncontrolled asthma, see a doctor.

And if your asthma is allergy-related (as most asthma is), consider seeing an AllergyEasy physician for a safe, hassle-free treatment. These physicians can order an allergy test kit to find out which allergies are contributing to your asthma, then prescribe sublingual immunotherapy drops. The drops work like allergy shots, but they can be dosed as under-the-tongue drops instead of injections. And because they have a higher safety profile than shots, they work better for many asthma patients—including those with uncontrolled asthma. Remember that if allergies are causing your asthma, medications will only put a bandage on the symptoms, but they won’t fix the underlying problem.

If you have asthma, you know better than most about the importance of being proactive with your health. As we head into flu season and continue to battle the Covid-19 pandemic, make sure to take the steps necessary to stay at your best.

About The Author

Stuart H. Agren, M.D.

Stuart H. Agren, M.D. completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Utah and went on to earn his Doctor of Medicine from Tulane University School of Medicine in 1974. He completed additional training at L.D.S. Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah and then established his private medical practice starting in 1975. Dr. Agren completed a mini-residency in Industrial Medicine at the Robert Johnson School of Medicine at Rutgers University and also completed training to become a certified Medical Review Officer.

Dr. Agren was the Medical Director at TRW and McDonnell Douglas in Mesa, Arizona and at Stauffer Chemical and Kennecott Copper in Salt Lake City, Utah. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at Arizona State University.

In his private medical practice, Dr. Agren specialized in family practice and allergy. In his work as a private practice allergist, he was one of the first doctors in the country to prescribe sublingual immunotherapy to his patients as an alternative to subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots). He has also been a trailblazer in the field of food allergy treatment and research, developing a program to treat multiple food allergies simultaneously using sublingual immunotherapy. Dr. Agren has been featured on local CBS, NBC, and ABC news affiliates and won the peer-nominated “Top Doc” award from Phoenix Magazine.

After 20 years in private practice, Dr. Agren became the Founder and President of AllergyEasy, which helps primary care physicians around the country offer allergy testing and sublingual immunotherapy treatment to their patients. Over 200 physicians in over 32 states use the AllergyEasy program to help their patients overcome environmental and food allergies and asthma.