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Colds and flu

Top tips to stop colds and flu triggering your asthma symptoms this winter

Why colds and flu trigger your asthma 

When you have a cold or flu, your airways become more inflamed and you produce more mucus – so there’s less room for the air to get through. This can make it harder to breathe, even if you only have mild asthma, and set off your asthma symptoms.

That's why it's vitally important to take care of yourself when winter bugs are about. 81% of people with asthma say their asthma symptoms get worse when they have a cold or flu, putting them at risk of a potentially life threatening asthma attack.

5 steps to reduce the risks of colds and flu

It’s hard to avoid colds and flu, but there are steps you can take to reduce the chance of catching them.

  1. Get your annual flu vaccine early in the autumn so you’re protected before ‘peak flu’ season. If you’ve been prescribed a preventer inhaler or have been in hospital because of asthma in the past, you can have the vaccination for free at your doctor’s surgery or many pharmacies. To find out more, see our flu vaccine advice.
  2. Arrange an asthma review with your doctor or asthma nurse. Ask them to update your Asthma Action Plan to help you stay well.
  3. Wash your hands frequently to reduce the risk of catching a cold or flu.
  4. Take care to avoid sharing towels, cups or other household items with someone who may have a cold.
  5. Look after yourself: get plenty of sleep and try to eat a healthy, balanced diet.

The flu vaccine is free for people with asthma - see our vaccines advice for more.

4 ways to protect yourself from an asthma attack when you have a cold or flu:

  1. If you’ve got a preventer inhaler, take it every day, as prescribed. It helps to control inflammation in your lungs, meaning you’re less likely to have an asthma attack even if you do come into contact with a trigger like a cold or flu virus. Watch our videos to help you improve your inhaler technique so you get the best protection levels.
  2. Carry your reliever inhaler (usually blue) with you. If you need to use it three or more times a week, see your doctor.
  3. If after using your reliever inhaler your symptoms return within four hours, make a same-day appointment with your doctor.
  4. Rest. Take paracetamol for aches and pains and drink lots of water and other drinks. Flu can really wipe you out, so don’t try to do too much too soon.

Advice if cold weather triggers your asthma

If you’re looking for help because cold weather makes your asthma worse, see our cold weather advice.

Got questions about the flu vaccination? Get the most up-to-date advice on the flu vaccine.

Asthma action plans keep all your personal triggers and medicines tips in one place. Download one now to fill in with your doctor or nurse.