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Asthma Society’s tips for avoiding the flu virus

380,000 people with asthma and 500,000 people with COPD at risk from potentially fatal flu virus/pneumococcal disease

The Asthma Society of Ireland is today calling on the 380,000 people in Ireland who have asthma, and the 500,000 people who have Coronary Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), to speak to their GP or pharmacist about receiving the flu vaccination. People with long-term illnesses like asthma and COPD are at higher risk of the flu, which is potentially fatal.

Dr. Dermot Nolan, Asthma Consultant and member of the Asthma Society’s Medical Advisory Group, said: “I strongly recommend the flu vaccine to my patients with asthma. Contracting the virus is in no way a pleasant experience. Headaches, high fever, chills, coughing and aching body are just a few of the many debilitating symptoms. In some cases, the flu can lead to death. Every year, between 200 and 500 people die as a result of the flu. People with asthma need to be extra cautious with the flu virus as it causes swelling and narrowing of the airways in the lungs, along with excess mucus and these three factors can trigger an asthma attack, which in some cases, can be fatal.

The southern hemisphere has just come out of a very difficult flu season and this usually indicates that it will hit us hard this winter too. So, this year, it is even more important that people with asthma and other respiratory conditions receive the flu jab, as it could save their lives.”

Sarah O’Connor, CEO of the Asthma Society, said:  “It is really important that people with asthma or COPD and their friends, family and co-workers, make every effort to avoid contracting the highly contagious flu virus. One person now dies every six days from asthma. To help keep the flu at bay, we’ve compiled a list of top tips on how to avoid contracting the virus, and what to do if you do contract the virus. Everyone with asthma and/or COPD should follow these tips:”

Top tips to help you avoid catching and spreading the flu virus:

  • Get the flu vaccine in October
  • Watch the Asthma Society’s our Asthma and the Flu Vaccine Q&A video which answers some of the most common questions about asthma and the flu
  • Call the Asthma Society’s free Asthma and COPD Adviceline on 1800 44 54 64 to speak to an respiratory specialist nurse to ensure you are properly managing your condition and are best prepared for flu season
  • Cover your mouth when sneezing using a tissue – this tissue should be binned afterwards
  • Wash your hands frequently with hot soapy water to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading the flu virus
  • Get plenty of sleep and eat healthily – this can help boost your immunity and decrease the risks of contracting a flu
  • If you suspect someone has a cold or the flu, keep your distance where possible
  • Try to get into the habit of not touching your face as this is often how the flu is spread
  • Regularly clean hard surfaces such as your phone, keyboard and door handles as the flu virus can live on these surfaces for up to 24 hours

If you catch the flu, you should:

  • Schedule an appointment with your doctor straight away
  • Remember to use your preventative inhaler every day, which will help control inflammation in your lungs – this will make you less likely to have an asthma attack
  • Always carry your reliever inhaler(usually blue) with you wherever you go in case of emergencies
  • If using your inhaler more than twice a week, contact your GP
  • Improve your inhaler technique to get the best benefit from your medication – watch our Inhaler Technique videos on asthma.ie for best practice
  • Rest as much as possible – the flu can be extremely tiring and you will need all your energy to fight it
  • Stay hydrated – drink plenty of water
  • Stay home from work/school when you experience flu symptoms, to rest and also to avoid spreading the virus

The Asthma Society of Ireland is also directing people with asthma and/or COPD to visit pneumo.ie, a website it proud to partner with MSD, Age Action, Diabetes Ireland, and Croì to help launch. This new resource has a wealth of information on the pneumococcal disease and its vaccine.

Dr. Nolan, concluded: “People with asthma and/or COPD should also speak to their healthcare professional about getting the pneumococcal vaccine. This once-off vaccine will reduce the patient’s risk of contracting the pneumococcal virus. The potentially deadly pneumococcal virus can lead to sinusitis (sinus infection), otisis media (ear infection), pneumonia (lung infection), bacteremia (blood infection), and meningitis (brain infection).”

For anyone looking for any more information on their asthma and/or COPD and the flu/pneumococcal vaccine, the Asthma Society has a team of respiratory specialist nurses available on 1800 44 54 64 who will happily answer their queries.

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