Flu shots give asthmatic children more protection

Children with asthma should have flu shots according to health officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A CDC study on flu shot data from 2005 showed only 3 in 10 children had received flu shots to protect them.

“I always talk about the importance of getting a flu shot when a person has any chronic disease, especially a respiratory disease like asthma,” said Patti Burton, Community asthma educator and respiratory therapist. “Many asthmatics are triggered by what we call an ‘upper respiratory infection’ or URI.”

Burton said the inflammatory response of the lung tissue is more intense because of hypersensitivity of the lungs. She said the series of events that might follow this hypersensitivity could lead to fatal results.

“I tell the families that although they may still get the flu, it could considerably lessen the degree in which they get sick,” Burton said. “When they first notice the signs and symptoms of a URI or common cold, they should be aggressive with their medications.”

The CDC study is the first national estimate on flu vaccination rates for asthmatic children, according to a March 9 Associated Press story.

The article said children with asthma, a chronic lung problem marked by wheezing, coughing and labored breathing, can die from flu complications, such as pneumonia and acute respiratory disease. And, they are at higher risk for those problems. Inactivated flu vaccine is recommended for asthmatic children older than six months.

The study's findings came from an analysis of a 2005 national survey of the parents of children ages 2 to 17. About 5,100 kids were represented in the data, and 557 of them had asthma.

The AP reported only 29% of the asthmatic children had gotten flu shots during the 2004-05 flu season. The lowest vaccination rates were among children ages 5 to 12 who had not had an asthma attack or episode in the previous year.

This story was reported by Mary Lisa Russell. She can be reached a mrussell@communitymedical.org.