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Health Warning: Asthmatic Kids and the Flu Vaccine

With flu season here, it’s likely you’re hearing a lot about vaccination. If your child has an underlying condition, such as asthma, you’ll want to read about this!

The fever, the chills, the runny nose, the general ‘couldn’t feel worse’ feeling – they’re hallmarks of influenza

Vaccination can make it less likely that your child will get the flu. And, if asthma is part of your family’s day to day, the vaccine might be all that more important. Children, and adults, with chronic conditions are at a greater risk of having serious complications from the flu. These conditions include:

  • Asthma
  • Other respiratory problems
  • Congenital heat disease
  • Kidney disorders
  • Liver disorders
  • Extreme obesity

Keep in mind, the flu isn’t just a bad cold. According to the National Asthma Council of Australia, it may start out in the same way as a cold (sore throat, headache, cough), but it can be much more severe. Add on a condition such as asthma, which affects the respiratory system, and you have a recipe for a serious situation. What could be a fairly minor illness for a child who is perfectly healthy can turn into a major, potentially life-threatening problem for kids with asthma. This is what makes reducing the asthmatic child’s risk extra important.

There are three main types – influenza A, B, and C. The vaccine does not protect against all types of the virus. Flu vaccine manufacturers and researchers look at what the projected common types are for the upcoming flu season, and create a version that is specific for that year. This means the flu shot that you or your child got last year isn’t likely to provide protection this year.

It is still possible to get the flu, even if you’ve had the immunisation. You, or your child, might come in contact with a strain that isn’t covered by the current year’s vaccine. That said, getting the vaccine does provide an added layer of protection. And, this is even more important when your child has a condition such as asthma.

Even if your child does get the vaccine, it’s always wise to take a few steps to prevent the spread of the flu – just in case. The flu spreads through direct contact with infected surfaces, along with respiratory droplets that are spread by coughing or sneezing.

Help prevent the spread of the flu by:

  • Keeping your child away from anyone (this includes both adults and kids) who have or may have the flu.
  • Washing hands frequently with warm, soapy water. Make sure that your kiddo does more than a quick splash-through rinse. Supervise her hand-washing, making sure she washes the back and front of her hands and in-between her fingers.
  • Disinfecting hard surfaces, such as counters, tables, door knobs and your child’s toys.
  • Teaching good hygiene habits. Instruct your child to sneeze into the inside bend of her elbow.

If your child does have asthma, or another chronic condition, talk to her doctor before flu season. Ask if there are any extra precautions your family may need to take to avoid or deal with influenza. There are four separate types of flu vaccines, given based on your child’s age. Asthma (and other chronic respiratory conditions) qualify all children ages 6-months and up for a free flu immunisation.

Erica Loop
Erica Loop is a mum, parenting writer and educator with an MS in child development. Along with writing for websites such as PBS Parents, care.com, Scary Mommy, mom.me, Modern Mom, education.com and others, she also is the creator of a kids' activities and art blog.