SYDNEY: Asthma Australia is urging people with asthma to be vaccinated against the flu to help them avoid prolonged sickness and time off work and school, based on new survey data.
Asthma Australia surveyed more than 500 people with asthma and their carers finding 64% took days off work, school or study as a result of flu and asthma, and 66% required 3 days leave or more.
Although 51% of carers required days off to care for a person with asthma and flu, only 59% of carers said they were considering vaccination this year.
Asthma affects 1 in 9 Australians. Respiratory viruses such as flu are one of the most common triggers.
“Managing asthma year-round is very important but during flu season the flu vaccine can offer extra protection for people with asthma who may experience debilitating symptoms and longer recovery periods if their asthma is exacerbated by flu,” said Michele Goldman, CEO Asthma Australia.
In 2016, the 0-5 age group had the second highest flu rate1 and children are more likely to contract influenza in any given season: 20-50% compared with 10-30% of adults2.
The carers who responded to the survey were mainly people caring for children with asthma. They showed a high level of hospital attendance; 53% said the person they cared for attended an emergency department and 34% were admitted to hospital due to flu-exacerbated asthma.
However, 41% of carers stated that the person with asthma they cared for was not likely to be vaccinated against flu this year. Of individuals who responded to the survey for themselves 70% said they would be vaccinated this year.
Respiratory specialist Dr Simon Bowler said: “Influenza is unpleasant for anyone but for people with asthma it can be more serious and lead to longer periods of illness or time in hospital. The flu vaccine is recommended from 6 months of age but any parents who have concerns should talk to their doctor.”
Seventy percent of survey respondents said they needed to see their doctor and 67% said their asthma continued to be affected for a week or more after catching the flu.
13SICK, National Home Doctor Service also reports that their top 2 reasons for callouts in winter are acute respiratory infections including flu, followed by asthma.
“Asthma flare-ups are one of the top five reasons people call us. In winter, we see an increase in home visits to treat asthma-related conditions. This is likely due to seasonal triggers such as cold weather and respiratory viruses, including influenza. There’s not a lot we can do about the weather but the flu vaccine is an important step people can take to protect themselves through winter,” said Dr Umberto Russo, Chief Medical Officer, National Home Doctor Service.
Vaccination in mid-April is recommended to offer protection throughout flu season.
For support with asthma call the 1800 ASTHMA Helpline (1800 278 462).
Survey participants were recruited via Asthma Australia’s website and social media channels. Consumers were asked to provide their experiences with asthma and flu via an online survey.