If you or your child has asthma, you're probably worried about flu season. You should be, at least enough to take protective action. Now is the time to get asthmatic lungs in the best shape they can be.
Your chance of catching the flu is the same as everyone else's, but if you do get sick, you're more likely than others to end up with a serious complication such as bronchitis or pneumonia. For swine flu (H1N1), there is preliminary evidence that many of the U.S. patients hospitalized with infection had underlying asthma.
First step to get your lungs in shape? Get your flu shots as soon as they're available. It is now recommended that asthma sufferers also have the pneumococcal vaccine, because it has been found they are more prone to pneumococcal infection, the most common complication of influenza.
Even after you've been vaccinated, though, you're not completely out of the woods. No vaccine is 100 percent effective, and other viral infections can also lead to respiratory complications, so getting your asthma under the best control possible is the next step in safeguarding yourself, says Robert Cowie, M.D., head of the asthma program at the University of Calgary.
The better your baseline, the less likely you are to drop into a critical zone when exposed to a viral infection, like influenza. People with poorly controlled asthma need only a little nudge to get themselves into trouble. But if your asthma is really well controlled, you've got lots of lung function in reserve.