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Asthma, the flu, and your family

Is your family prepared?

children's medical group cold and flu season

Did you know that children with asthma are at greater risk for complications from the flu? Winter is the peak season for flu activity in the United States, and can be a dangerous time of year for asthmatic children who are exposed to airborne pathogens like colds and flu.

Symptoms of the flu can include [1]:

  • Fever (though not all will have one)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (sometimes)

For the most part, if healthy children get the flu, they will recover in less than 2 weeks. However, some people can develop complications from the flu (such as pneumonia), or the flu can make chronic health conditions like asthma worse.  People with asthma may experience asthma attacks when they have the flu.

READ MORE: Beat cold and flu season this year

Preventing the flu:

Get the flu shot early in the year, and consider vaccinating the whole family to help protect your asthmatic family member. If your child hasn’t gotten the flu shot yet, it’s never too late!

Practice proper hand washing: using soap and running water, wash hands for as long as it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.  If you’re on the go and don’t have access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 

Practice good hygiene:  avoid close contact with people who are sick, and encourage your child to avoid touching his or her eyes, nose, and mouth.  If they are coughing and sneezing, use a tissue or cough into their elbow.

Keep the surfaces in your house clean, especially if someone has recently been sick in your household. Use a household disinfectant on counters, doorknobs, bathroom surfaces, etc. as well as toys.

Eliminate as many asthma triggers as possible:

Things that your child may be allergic to, such as dust mites, mold, pollen, and animal dander

Environmental irritants, such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, odors, fragrances, cleaning products, and volatile organic compounds in sprays.

Cold air, dry air. Keep nasal passages moist with saline sprays if needed, and keep your breath warm outdoors with a loosely wrapped scarf over your nose.

READ MORE: Are your kids drinking enough?

Create an Asthma Action Plan with your doctor. Some items may include [2]:

  • List of things that can make your asthma worse (asthma triggers)
  • The names and information for the medicines you need to take to treat your asthma
  • What symptoms should be warning signs of worsening asthma
  • Medicines to take based on the signs, symptoms, or peak flow measurements
  • Telephone numbers for an emergency contact, your pediatrician, and the local hospital

Learn more about the American Lung Association’s Asthma Action Plan

If your child gets sick:

  1. Call the doctor right away if your child develops flu-like symptoms. Your pediatrician may want to begin antiviral drugs as soon as possible to help fight against the flu.
  2. Keep your child home until they have been without a fever of 100 degrees or more for at least 24 hours, except for doctor visits.
  3. Ask your doctor what fever-reducing medicines should be given to your child, based on their age.
  4. Keep your sick child in a separate room in the house and limit contact with the rest of the family as much as possible. Designate one person to be the main caregiver.
  5. Make sure your child gets plenty of rest and fluids.

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