Swine flu and asthmaLeading charity offers advice
Asthma UK’s team of clinical experts is offering important advice on how people with asthma can help protect themselves against swine flu now and into the autumn.
Swine flu risk to asthma sufferers
Adults and children with asthma are no more likely to contract swine flu than the rest of the population, but if they do get the virus, they could become unwell if their condition is not well-managed.
Make sure you use your preventer inhaler
It’s vital that people with asthma ensure that they use their preventer inhaler (usually morning and evening), if they have been prescribed one.
Cher Piddock, Clinical Lead at Asthma UK, says: "Some people with asthma stop using their preventer medicine as they don’t feel any immediate benefit, but it's actually the most important medicine that you can use to prevent an asthma attack. Preventer medicine controls the swelling and inflammation in the airways and stops them from being so sensitive, but the protective effect builds up over a period of time so you need to take it every day, even when you’re feeling well."
Ensure that you don’t run out of your inhalers
Mike Thomas, GP and Chief Medical Adviser to Asthma UK, says: "All the medicines that you have been prescribed are vital to keep your condition under control, so it’s essential that you’re organised and make sure you have a good supply."
Refer to your personal asthma action plan
If you have a plan, refer to it regularly, as it provides details of all your asthma medicines and tells you what steps to take if your asthma gets worse, and what to do in an emergency. People with a plan are four times less likely to need hospital treatment for their asthma so, if you don’t have one, speak to your GP or asthma nurse for more information.
Prepare thoroughly before your holiday – and don’t forget insurance
Wherever you go on holiday, it's important that you take the same sensible precautions with your asthma that you would at home. If you’re travelling in Europe, it’s important that you take a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you, which you can get from a Post Office. This will enable you to have any necessary medical treatment you need for free, including for swine flu.
However, you will also need separate travel insurance before travelling. Many people with asthma find that getting specialist travel insurance can be difficult and expensive, but it’s essential that you have a policy in place before travelling abroad and that you check it covers asthma and swine flu.
Mike Thomas continues: "Make sure you take a supply of your normal asthma medications on holiday, a peak flow meter if you have one and some simple over-the-counter cold and flu medications. It’s also important to find out where you can get medical help if you need it."
Try to lead a healthy lifestyle
Staying active and eating a healthy, balanced diet are important ways to keep asthma under control. Exercise can help to improve lung function and help with the management of asthma symptoms. Studies have shown that people who exercise regularly seem to cope better with their asthma symptoms and have less need for their reliever inhaler.
Diet also plays a key role, according to Cher Piddock: "Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables can help boost the immune system and help ward off colds and flu."
For more information, visit Asthma UK’s website, asthma.org.uk, or call the Asthma UK Adviceline on 0800 121 62 44
This article was published on Fri 24 July 2009
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