What to do when you do get a cold or the flu
Despite your best intentions to stay healthy, an occasional cold or case of the flu is inevitable — especially in children. These steps may help:
- Call your doctor if your asthma begins to flare up when you're sick. If you have the flu, early treatment with an antiviral medication or other prescription medication may help ease symptoms and may help you recover more quickly.
- Follow your asthma action plan. If you notice warning signs of an asthma attack — such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath — adjust your medication as directed by your written asthma action plan. (If you don't have an asthma action plan, talk to your doctor about making one.)
- Rest and take care of yourself. Rest and drink plenty of fluids. With your doctor's OK, use over-the-counter cold or flu remedies to relieve your symptoms. These medications won't help you get over the cold or flu faster, but they can help you feel better in the meantime.
- Monitor your airflow. Use a peak flow meter to monitor how well your lungs are working from day to day. Take your readings at the same time every day. If you notice a drop in your peak flow rate, adjust your medication as directed by your doctor.
- Seek help right away for severe symptoms. Seek treatment if you have severe breathing trouble or if your throat is extremely sore. Also get medical attention if you have any signs or symptoms of pneumonia, such as a high fever, chills, sweats, sharp pain when taking deep breaths or a cough that brings up colored phlegm.
- Stay home. If you do get sick, stay home from school or work to avoid infecting others. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Generally, you can infect others a day before your symptoms appear and for up to a week or so afterward.
Work with your doctor to develop a plan of action to prevent getting a cold or flu, and know what to do at the first signs you or your child may be getting sick. Prompt treatment can help ease symptoms and prevent a mild asthma flare-up from progressing to a severe asthma attack.
Nov. 22, 2011
See more In-depth
- Mangan JM, et al. Trigger control to enhance asthma management. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Sept. 26, 2011.
- Respiratory tract infections in children. The Merck Manuals: Home Edition for Patients and Caregivers. http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/childrens_health_issues/viral_infections_in_infants_and_children/respiratory_tract_infections_in_children.html. Accessed Sept. 26, 2011.
- Viral infections and asthma. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=8&sub=17&cont=379. Accessed Sept. 26, 2011.
- Flu and people with asthma. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/asthma/. Accessed Sept. 26, 2011.
- Li JTC (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Oct. 2, 2011.