It’s not too late to fight winter flu – especially if you have asthma

As the colder weather sets in, the National Asthma Council Australia (NACA) has issued a checklist to help asthmatics to stay well this winter.

Mostly importantly, the NACA wants all asthmatics and people with allergies to make sure they are up to date with their vaccinations, including flu, COVID and RSV as they are all viruses that affect the respiratory tract. And it’s especially important for older Australians, who make up the majority of those admitted to hospital for respiratory infections.

Dr Joel Ten, a GP and NACA spokesperson, said 60 to 70 per cent of asthma attacks are due to viral infections such as the common cold or influenza.

“People who have asthma and allergies tend to be hit hard from viral infections so it is important to get vaccines as soon as you can and don’t think it is too late as winter has started,” he said.

Over-60s at risk

“Adults over 60 years of age have higher rates of a serious complications with RSV infection and the NACA encourages people with asthma aged over 60 years to chat to their GP about the newly approved RSV vaccine that is now available on private script.”

The winter checklist for asthmatics is as follows:

  • get your lungs checked by seeing a doctor for an asthma review
  • follow your asthma plan
  • use your medications wisely
  • check your inhaler technique
  • take extra care if you are over 65
  • take preventative action such as avoiding your asthma triggers, washing your hands and get your vaccinations.

Find the full details of the checklist here.

If you do get sick, the NACA recommends following your asthma plan, getting lots of rest and staying hydrated, staying at home and try to avoid infecting others. See your doctor immediately if your symptoms are severe or rapidly getting worse.

Dr Ten said winter can also be a good time to schedule an annual asthma review with your GP to discuss any symptoms such as night coughs and how often you need to use your inhaler reliever (puffer).

“Now is a good time of year to check the health of your lungs and assess if you need to make any changes to your asthma medications and update your written asthma action plan so you stay well over winter,” Dr Ten said.

“It can also be a great opportunity to make sure you or any members of your family with asthma have good day-to-day asthma control before the spring seasonal jump in asthma and hay fever, including the increased risk of thunderstorm asthma.”

Shocking figures

According to government figures, since April the number of patients hospitalised with severe respiratory infections has been increasing, with the over-60s making up the largest proportion of patients who die in hospital.

Health authorities issued a seasonal warning in NSW after 2000 people were diagnosed with flu in one week.

“Now is the time to book in for a flu vaccine to protect yourself and your loved ones,” NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said.

Victoria experienced a 30 per cent increase in hospitalisations for respiratory diseases in one week during May.

For the year to 17 June, just under 50,000 people had been diagnosed with flu in NSW, followed by Queensland with 18,659 cases and Victoria with 18,624.

Do you have asthma? Do you take extra precautions over winter? Why not let us know about your experience in the comments section below?

Also read: Vaccination rates plummet for older Australians

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.
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