Brrr. Cold and flu season is upon us. That's extra-bad news for people with asthma. It's not surprising that common colds and the flu give your lungs and airways a double whammy. According to the CDC, if you have asthma, you're more likely to develop serious complications from the flu. Children and adults alike are more likely to have to be hospitalized with flu if they also have asthma. More bad news: Flu can trigger asthma attacks or make symptoms worse.
The same goes for colds, according to the Mayo Clinic. Unfortunately, even the sniffles can cause that awful wheezing that comes with an asthma flareup. Even worse, your asthma medications may not relieve your symptoms while you have a cold or the flu, Mayo Clinic warns.
Here's what you should do as flu season gets underway:
Get a flu shot. While the flu vaccine doesn't protect you 100 percent from catching the flu, it's generally about 40 percent effective, WebMD says. Even if you still come down with symptoms after you've gotten your shot, they probably won't be as bad.
For kids with asthma and other conditions, that flu shot is even more important. One study showed it reduced deaths by half among them, WebMD adds.
Be aware that not all vaccines are right for people with asthma. For example, the nasal spray version of the flu vaccine can make you wheeze, according to the CDC.
Consider the pneumonia vaccine. Ask your doctor about whether you should also be immunized against pneumonia. This vaccine can reduce the likelihood of a cold or the flu turning into pneumonia—a greater risk for people with asthma, says the Mayo Clinic.
Avoid germs. You know the drill. Keep on top of personal sanitation. Wash your hands frequently, keep from touching your face, and stay away from people who are sick, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America advises.
Keep using your inhaler. If you're not experiencing any asthma symptoms, that means your asthma medications are working. You don't want to take a chance on experiencing the double trouble of an asthma attack and the flu. The CDC guidelines say you should maintain your regular schedule of meds during flu season.
Update your Asthma Action Plan. Make sure everything is current: what asthma medications you take regularly, what kind of rescue inhaler you use, what to do if you're having an attack. When you're under the weather with flu, it can be hard to focus. That's when you can rely on your plan to stay on track with your asthma medications.
You can't flee the flu, but you can be prepared. Breathe easier, knowing you've got a plan.