Swine flu was the most recent epidemic to cause mass media panic. A strain of the flu virus, it is thought that the illness would cause many deaths and infect vast proportions of the population. While that threat has mostly not come to pass, and the epidemic is largely over, the condition did, and still does, pose a more serious threat to those parties who are already vulnerable. The deaths that did occur were mostly the elderly, young children and those with existing conditions. For this reasons asthma sufferers are wise to be cautious.
Any cold or flu is a trigger for roughly 90% of asthma cases, making the condition much worse resulting in prolonged illness and even hospital admissions. As you will already be struggling with your breathing an infection of swine flu like many others will greatly increase you chances of an attack.
Unlike other flu and cold viruses however we also know relatively little about swine flu and have not been able to build up a resistance to it through exposure due to its relative newness. The symptoms are generally more severe than those of the ‘regular’ fllu, and also include other complications such as diarrhoea. It is also thought that swine flu infects the cells deeper in the lungs whereas seasonal flu affects the upper respiratory tract. This again could put asthma sufferers at greater risk and potentially lead to pneumonia. Those suffering with swine flu and asthma should look out for this and report any sudden worsening of their condition to their GP. It may also be the case that asthma patients are more susceptible to becoming infected with the swine flu virus initially, though it is currently uncertain whether this is the case.
People with asthma are for these reasons categorised as an at-risk group which gives them priority to receive the vaccine. This could be the pandemrix vaccine or the tamiflu vaccine. Ensure that you discuss your options with your doctor and the pros and cons of each vaccine. These vaccines have been known to cause unpleasant side effects and in one patient recently reported on the news in the UK tamiflu lead to blindness.
Otherwise asthma patients are advised to use their usual infection control precautions to help keep their asthma at bay (that means regular use of your maintainer). Try to avoid swine flu infection as you would another infection – flu is spread by droplets of saliva spread while talking, coughing or sneezing so avoid those and ensure you was your hands thoroughly with hot water. Finally attempt to avoid exposure to public transport, medical practices and small offices.