Flu_shotThe upcoming winter months in Indiana bring unique hazards to Hoosiers with asthma. Colder temperatures can trigger an asthma attack in some people, and indoor conditions can also put people at risk.


The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) urges people with asthma who are sensitive to cold to cover their mouth and nose when they go out in cold and windy weather. People with asthma should also be aware of indoor triggers, such as smoke from fireplaces and wood-burning stoves.


All Hoosiers with asthma should get a flu vaccine to help protect against the respiratory virus, which can cause severe illness in individuals with asthma. Managing your asthma by using prescribed medications as directed by your healthcare provider can help you breathe easier during colder months.


“Having asthma myself, I know how it can be a very serious condition, especially in colder conditions,” said State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H. “Planning now, getting a flu shot and being aware of potential triggers will put Hoosiers with asthma on a path to a healthier winter.”


According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), asthma is a chronic disease of the lungs that affects more than 17.7 million adults and more than 7.4 million children in the United States. Though people with asthma are not more likely to get the flu (influenza), the illness can be more serious for people with asthma. Adults and children with asthma are more likely to develop pneumonia after the flu than people who don’t have asthma.


During the 2015 flu season, only 48 percent of Indiana adults with asthma got a flu vaccination, according to Indiana State Department of Health data. The Healthy People 2020 plan for flu vaccination recommends coverage of 80 percent for children ages 6 months to 17 years, and 90 percent coverage for adults with asthma.


Uncontrolled asthma can cause wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and morning or nighttime cough. Exposure to tobacco smoke, air pollution, pet dander or dust mites can trigger an asthma attack, causing the sides of the lungs to swell and airways to shrink, reducing one’s ability to breathe.


An estimated 429,000 Indiana adults and 108,000 children report having asthma. According to the CDC, children are most susceptible to asthma, and one in 11 school-age children in Indiana has the disease.  Asthma claims the life of one person every five days in Indiana; 59 percent of those deaths occur among people age 64 and younger.


To avoid getting the flu and passing it to someone else, the CDC recommends that you stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care, and stay away from other people who are sick.  Also, follow these tips to prevent the flu:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and throw the tissue away. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow or shoulder, not your bare hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth so you don’t spread germs.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.
  • If you do have flu symptoms, call your doctor, who might recommend flu antiviral medication.


The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices says nasal spray flu vaccines should not be used during the 2016-2017 flu season because of poor effectiveness.


If you have asthma, make sure you work with your healthcare provider to update your asthma action plan.  It is especially important during the flu season to:

  • Follow the updated asthma action plan developed with your doctor.
  • Follow this plan for daily treatment to control asthma long-term and to handle worsening asthma, or attacks.
  • If your child has asthma, make sure that his or her current written asthma action plan is on file at school or at the daycare center. Be sure that the plan and medication(s) are easy to get to when needed.


To learn more about asthma action plans, visit http://www.cdc.gov/asthma/actionplan.html. For more information and resources, visit the Indiana State Department of Health website at www.StateHealth.in.gov, or go to the Environmental Protection Agency website atwww.epa.gov/asthma/awareness.html