Flu vaccinations for people with asthma

Questions or worries about the flu vaccine? We can help

Get the flu vaccine NOW to make sure you're covered for the whole winter season 

With temperatures dropping and Christmas round the corner, this is really your last chance to get vaccinated if you want to reduce your risk of flu over the festive season. 

If you’ve ever had flu, you’ll know it can put you in bed for days. And it's not just a horrible illness. Even if you only have mild asthma, flu can trigger symptoms that could leave you fighting for breath.

Eight out of ten people with asthma say flu triggers their asthma symptoms, raising the risk of a life-threatening asthma attack,"
Dr Andy, Asthma UK's in-house GP

Getting the free flu vaccine is simple and you don’t always need an appointment

If you’ve been prescribed a preventer inhaler alongside your blue inhaler, you can get the flu vaccine for free. In some areas you can avoid the hassle of an appointment by going to your local pharmacy (take your brown inhaler or prescription with you to prove you’re eligible.) Your GP may be running flu clinics where you can just turn up and get vaccinated. 

If you’re over 65 and have been affected by vaccine delays

The Fluad vaccine (which provides extra protection for over 65s) should be available now from your pharmacist or GP, according to our latest update from Public Health England. Some people with asthma have told us that the vaccine is still being 'rationed', though, after delays in production. It's worth pointing out to your GP or pharmacist that because you have asthma, you're in a high risk group and should have priority.

Don’t just rely on vaccinating – take your preventer inhaler

Taking your preventer medicine as prescribed will help keep all your triggers at bay, all winter.  

The flu vaccine for children 

Alongside using their preventer inhaler as prescribed, the flu vaccine is the best way to protect your child from an asthma attack triggered by flu. 

The vaccine is usually given as a nasal spray, not an injection - but the spray is not recommended for children on oral steroids (pills or liquids) or high doses of inhaled steroids. Our asthma nurses can help you work out what type of dose your child is on. 

How to get the free vaccine for your child

This year, children in England can get the vaccine at school from Reception to year 5. Children aged two and three, and 10 or older who have a preventer inhaler can get the vaccine at their GP’s surgery. 

If your little one is aged between six months and two and you think they might have asthma, or they’re being tested for asthma, speak to your GP about whether they should have the flu vaccination.

If your child’s being vaccinated late by their school 

It looks like some children may not get the nasal spray vaccine until December because of the way a number of schools have scheduled their flu vaccine programme. “If you don’t feel your child should wait that long to be vaccinated because you have concerns about flu triggering their asthma, talk to your GP,” says Asthma UK’s in-house GP Dr Andy Whittamore.

Contact an asthma nurse using our WhatsApp service

Worried about flu vaccine side effects?

It’s natural to worry about side effects. Here are some common fears: 

1)     Worrying the injection will give you flu and trigger an asthma attack

The jab is a ‘dead vaccine’, so can’t give you flu. The nasal spray is a live vaccine, but the live virus is given in tiny amounts and healthy children won’t catch flu from it. You can find more reassurance here.

2)     Knowing the vaccine might make you feel under the weather

You might get a sore arm, and possibly a slight temperature, headache and aching muscles for a couple of days. See the NHS’s advice on how to treat mild side effects.

3)     Fears of an allergic reaction

 Very rarely, people get a severe allergic reaction, usually within a few hours of having the vaccine. If you had a reaction, however small, last time then let your GP or pharmacist know.

If you’re still not sure whether you or your child should have the vaccine, speak to your GP or pharmacist or contact one of our asthma nurses using our WhatsApp service.

Confused about the flu vaccine? WhatsApp our asthma nurses for advice. 

Will the flu vaccine work? The facts

The flu viruses change each year and the vaccine is updated accordingly – that’s why it’s recommended that you have the latest vaccine every autumn.

Sometimes, though, people catch flu even after having the vaccine because it’s not always possible for the flu vaccine to be an exact match.

Because the vaccine takes time to work, if you catch flu just before having your jab, it might seem like it’s ‘failed’. Even so, the flu you get will probably be milder.

Getting the flu vaccine if you don’t use pork or egg products

Let your GP know if you’re allergic to eggs - the injectable flu vaccine contains egg, but there are alternatives. 

The nasal spray for children contains pork gelatine and tiny quantities of egg. Some faith groups say it’s OK to use pork gelatine for medical purposes, but it’s your decision. You can find more details here.

Who to speak to if you have worries or questions

Your GP, asthma nurse or pharmacist will have all the latest information about flu vaccination, or you can speak to an asthma expert nurse on the Asthma UK helpline (0300 222 5800, Monday to Friday 9am-5pm) or WhatsApp on 07378 606728

See more advice from Asthma UK about protecting yourself from colds and flu this winter. 

Last updated September 2018 

Next update due September 2019