When asthma is combined with other conditions, such as the flu, chickenpox, osteoporosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, it requires special attention and teamwork with your allergist. An allergist is an expert who can help you manage your asthma when you have another illness. Their help is especially important when you have other conditions.
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Asthma and the Flu
Having asthma increases your risk of severe complications and possibly even death from the flu. This is because both asthma and the flu are respiratory conditions. The flu can make asthma symptoms worse, and the two together can be quite serious.
The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu shot. Since flu viruses change each year, allergists urge everyone who has asthma to get a flu vaccine each fall.
Most varieties of the flu vaccine contain small amounts of egg protein. An updated ACAAI guideline stresses that anyone with egg allergy can safely receive the flu vaccine with no special precautions.
The best way to stay in control of your asthma is to avoid the flu. But if you have the flu, call your allergist immediately and let them know. They may adjust prescriptions to medications you normally take, or they may write a prescription to get you through the additional stressors on your breathing.
Even though you don’t feel well, it’s important to get and take any new medications your allergist may have ordered.
Asthma and Chickenpox
Fortunately, cases of chickenpox are becoming rare due to the success of the chickenpox vaccine. If your child hasn’t had the chickenpox vaccine, get them vaccinated, especially if your child has asthma. Likewise, if you have asthma but never had chickenpox as a child, tell your allergist. Chickenpox and asthma together can create a dangerous risk of serious respiratory problems.
Although corticosteroids are known to suppress immune function, children receiving oral corticosteroid treatment for asthma rarely have complications from chickenpox. There is no evidence that an inhaled corticosteroid increases the risks for children with asthma who are exposed to chickenpox. Therefore, most children with asthma who are treated with corticosteroids and have chickenpox should continue their asthma therapy. Stopping prescribed asthma treatment is much more dangerous to your child than the potential risk from corticosteroid use during an outbreak of chickenpox.
If you or your child has asthma and gets chickenpox, contact your allergist immediately. Your allergist can help you manage asthma symptoms until the increased risks are over.
Asthma and Osteoporosis
Most asthma medications are well tolerated by people with asthma. Those with asthma can live long, active and healthy lives under the care of an allergist. Medications are adjusted to the lowest dose possible for your symptoms, and when you and your allergist work as a team, your asthma can be well controlled.
Because asthma is an inflammation of the airways in the lungs, most patients are prescribed anti-inflammatory medications. With all medicines, side effects can occur. Oral corticosteroids such as prednisone are the most potent anti-inflammatory drugs used to treat asthma. One known side effect of these drugs is bone loss that could result in osteoporosis. This type of osteoporosis is known as steroid-induced osteoporosis.
Inhaled corticosteroids are very effective anti-inflammatory agents. They are significantly safer than oral corticosteroids because less of the drug in its active form is absorbed into the body. However, higher doses of inhaled corticosteroid may still cause side effects, including osteoporosis. Therefore, your allergist will always use the lowest effective dose of oral corticosteroid if it is required and will prescribe inhaled medication, whenever possible, at the lowest dose that will control your symptoms.
If you need daily corticosteroids or a similar drug to control your asthma, your allergist may want to determine your bone density. Bone mineral density tests are recommended starting at age 50; if you use corticosteroids to control your asthma, you may need earlier monitoring.
Remember, you have choices in your treatment options, and your allergist can talk with you about any potential side effects of your medications. Your allergist can help you determine which medications are best for you.
Asthma and COPD
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a collection of lung diseases that cause breathing problems and obstruct your airflow. Examples of these diseases are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Some people have asthma/COPD overlap. If you have this condition, your allergist will go over treatment options with you and discuss lifestyle changes that can help you feel better.