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How Can I Protect Myself From Respiratory Infections or Illnesses?

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When I get sick, sometimes it triggers my asthma. It makes me anxious and I try not to get sick as best I can. My cough will worsen as the days progress, and I lose my breath easily. What are some things I can do to avoid this?

It’s important to manage your asthma well. This is especially true when you first get sick (e.g., viral respiratory illness like the flu). If your asthma is well-managed when you get sick, you reduce your chances of having an asthma attack, complications, or being hospitalized.

Viral infections are major causes of asthma episodes or attacks. This includes the Flu (influenza), COVID-19, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). Follow these steps to protect yourself from respiratory infections. You can also follow them when you develop an illness that could trigger asthma symptoms.

  • Wash your hands often (especially after touching frequently used surfaces). Use soap and warm water for 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Get a yearly flu shot.
  • Keep your breathing equipment clean. This includes your asthma inhaler, nebulizer and nebulizer tubing, and mouthpiece.
  • Do not share your breathing equipment or medicines with others.
  • Stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) from people who have respiratory infections.
  • Avoid large crowds.
  • Wear an appropriate face mask.
  • Keep your asthma medications with you. This includes quick-relief asthma medicine, if needed to manage acute respiratory symptoms.
  • Follow your written asthma action plan. This will help you know how to respond if you get sick.
  • Contact your doctor if your symptoms are not improving or getting worse.
  • Travel only if necessary.
Asthma, COVID-19, Flu (Influenza)
Answered by

John M. James, MD, is a board-certified allergist. He is also President of Food Allergy Consulting and Education Services, LLC. He has worked as a medical specialist in the field of allergy, asthma, and immunology for over 30 years. Dr. James received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas and his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Tennessee. He is board certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology.

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