For information on COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and asthma, please click here.

How do colds, flu and viruses impact people with asthma?

Colds and flu are viral infections and are the most common trigger for asthma flare-ups. They can be more serious for people with asthma, even if asthma is mild or well controlled.

You can’t really avoid them, but you can reduce your risk of catching viral infections:

  • By washing your hands before you eat or touch your face, eyes or nose
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or elbow
  • Avoid crowded spaces where possible – especially where people have colds
  • Having the flu vaccination every year.

Good asthma management year-round is important to ensure you’re best able to deal with cold and flu viruses. Here are some key asthma management tips that can help.

Visit your doctor for an asthma review

You should see your doctor regularly to review your asthma control, response to treatment and monitor your lung function. An asthma review before cold and flu season can be a good way to ensure you are prepared to manage flare-ups.

The flu virus is always changing, so it is important to have an influenza vaccination every year. An annual flu shot will give you and your family the best chance of being protected against the most recent flu virus strains. It is best to be vaccinated from mid-April so your body has time to protect itself before the flu season starts so you are ready for the peak period, from around June to September. It is never too late to get the flu vaccination as influenza can circulate all year round.

Everyone with asthma, including all family members should be vaccinated against the flu. Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for a free flu vaccination under the National Immunisation Program.

To find out more about flu and the National Immunisation Program:

  • Call the National Immunisation Hotline: 1800 671 811
  • Visit the Department of Health’s immunisation website at 

Stop the spread of colds and flu

The influenza virus can live on surfaces such as handrails, lift buttons, and toilets for 48 hours and is spread when people touch a surface with the flu virus on it and then touch their own mouth or nose.

Stopping the spread of flu is possible by making sure you’re following three simple steps:

  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow
  • Wash your hands thoroughly, and
  • If you’re really unwell, stay home

Colds Flus man sneezing

If you don’t have a tissue handy and you feel a sneeze or cough coming on, cough into your elbow. This stops your hands from getting covered in the flu virus and will help stop the spread of those nasty germs. If you do use a tissue, make sure you dispose of it into a bin nearby and then wash your hands thoroughly.

Flu viruses are carried in almost invisible droplets from saliva, sneezes, coughs, and runny noses. Hands are one of the top spreaders of germs and viruses. Washing your hands thoroughly with soap at regular intervals throughout the day is a quick and easy way to help stop the spread of these germs.

Visit the Better Health Channel for more information and resources on how you can stop the spread of colds and flu.

Get a written Asthma Action Plan

A written Asthma Action Plan is a document developed with your doctor to help recognise worsening asthma and provides clear instructions on what to do in response to the onset of symptoms or during an asthma flare-up. A written Asthma Action Plan should also include instructions about managing asthma at the onset of a cold or flu.

A written Asthma Action Plan is something you should carry with you and keep at home, at work, or at your child’s school, if it is the child that is the person with asthma.

Click here to find out more about Asthma Action Plans.

Asthma Australia resources:

  • Call 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) to speak to an Asthma Educator for more information and support
  • Download one of our brochures or fact sheets here.
  • Register for Asthma Assist to receive our digital newsletter.

Government resources: