Asthma: Limit asthma attacks caused by colds or flu
A cold or the flu can trigger an asthma attack. Here's why — and how to keep your sneeze from turning into a wheeze.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
If you have asthma, even a mild cold can lead to wheezing and tightness in your chest. Colds and the flu are among the most common causes of asthma flare-ups, especially in young children.
Regular asthma medications may fail to relieve asthma symptoms associated with a cold or the flu. Also, asthma symptoms caused by a respiratory infection may last for several days to weeks.
There's no sure way to keep yourself or your child from getting a cold or the flu. But taking steps to avoid getting sick — and taking the right steps when you do — can help.
Preventing colds and the flu
Take these steps to help avoid getting sick:
Nov. 07, 2017
- Get an annual flu vaccine unless your doctor recommends against it. Most adults and children older than 6 months of age should get a flu vaccination every year.
- Ask your doctor if you need a pneumonia vaccination. Having asthma increases your risk of developing pneumonia after getting the flu.
- Avoid contact with anyone who's sick. Germs that cause respiratory infections are easily passed from person to person.
- Wash your hands often. This kills the germs that can cause respiratory infections. Carry a bottle of hand sanitizer to kill germs while you're on the go.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. These are the points where germs enter your body.
- Do not share your inhaler or other breathing equipment with others. Germs can spread on surfaces.
See more In-depth
- Bailey W, et al. Trigger control to enhance asthma management. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Oct. 10, 2017.
- Respiratory infections. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. http://www.aafa.org/page/respiratory-infections-flu-cold-asthma.aspx. Accessed Oct. 10, 2017.
- Flu and people with asthma. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/asthma/. Accessed Oct. 10, 2017.
- Juhn YJ. Risks for infection in patients with asthma (or other atopic conditions): Is asthma more than a chronic airway disease? Clinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology. 2014;134:247.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, et al. Prevention and control of seasonal influenza with vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices - United States, 2017-18 Influenza Season. MMWR. 2017;66:1. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/rr/rr6602a1.htm. Accessed Oct. 11, 2017.