How do colds and flu 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 critical to ensuring you are ready for the winter cold and flu season. Here are some key asthma management tips to be asthma ready this winter.

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 the 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 health.gov.au/immunisation 

Stop the spread of colds and flu

The influenza virus can live on surfaces such as hand rails, 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 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. Hangs 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

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

An Asthma Action Plan is something you should carry with you and keep at home, at work or at your child’s school.

Click here to find out more about Asthma Action Plans.

More information and resources to help you get asthma ready this winter:

Asthma Australia resources:

Government resources:

Other resources:

FLUSMART – Immunisation Coalition