2 April 2020
The COVID-19 outbreak makes the influenza vaccination more important than ever for the 2.7 million Australians with asthma.
The National Asthma Council Australia urges people with asthma to take extra care when any type of respiratory illness is spreading in the community, including both COVID-19 and influenza.
National Asthma Council CEO Siobhan Brophy says seasonal colds and flu are typically the main trigger for serious and life-threatening asthma flare-ups.
“Receiving a vaccination from April, ahead of the peak influenza period, will help protect your health,” Ms Brophy says.
“While we are still learning about how COVID-19 affects people with asthma, it’s likely that if your lungs are already sensitive, you could be left open to a more severe case or trigger a serious asthma flare-up. Getting a combination of both COVID-19 and influenza could be really dangerous.”
Ms Brophy says making sure your asthma is as well managed as possible is crucial to reduce the risk of an asthma attack being triggered by a virus.
“This means strictly following your asthma plan and doctor’s advice so your lungs are in their best shape possible should an infection come,” Ms Brophy says.
“It’s important to stick to a good routine of taking your preventer inhaler every day as prescribed to keep your asthma under control. Keep your reliever inhaler with you all the time so you can use it if your symptoms get worse.”
Ms Brophy encourages people with asthma to follow all recommended COVID-19 precautions, including social distancing and good hygiene.
Tips for COVID-19 and the coming flu season are:
- Have a flu vaccination – free for at risk groups including people with severe asthma and those aged 65 years and over. Call ahead to check whether your GP has the vaccine in stock.
- Make sure your asthma action plan is up to date and you know how to follow it
- If you are still using a nebuliser to take your asthma medications, speak to your doctor about switching to a puffer and spacer, which works just as well. Nebulisers can spread respiratory infections to other people and should be avoided if possible.
- Make sure you have enough medication for at least a month, but don’t stockpile.
- Get good rest and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
- To protect against infection, follow social distancing and hygiene advice.
- If you become unwell with COVID-19, keep taking your regular asthma preventer. Only take oral (systemic) steroids for asthma on your doctor’s advice. These medications act on your whole body, not just your lungs, and may slow down your recovery from the virus.
- If you need to go to hospital, take your medication with you.
Every year seasonal flu contributes to a significant number of hospital presentations and GP visits in Australia. Last year was the nation’s longest flu season on record. Figures show that 812 people died of influenza out of 298,120 reported cases for the flu season ending October 2019.
For further information, or to arrange an interview with a National Asthma Council Australia spokesperson, please contact:
Lelde McCoy, The Reputation Group