Asthma: How some patients could be playing ‘Russian Roulette’ with their lives this winter

Asthma is a common lung condition that causes breathing difficulties, said the NHS.

It affects people of all ages, but it’s most commonly diagnosed in children.

Asthma symptoms include breathlessness, wheezing, coughing, and feeling tight-chested.

But, patients have been warned that they could be putting their lives at risk by not getting the flu jab this year, Asthma UK has warned.

Cold and flu is the top cause of asthma attacks for more than 80 per cent of all asthma patients, the charity revealed.

The flu virus could increase inflammation in the airways, leaving patients wheezing and gasping for air.

It could also increase the risk of a deadly asthma attack – where the symptoms temporarily get worse.

The charity urged asthmatics that aren’t eligible for the free flu jab to discuss it with their GP, so they can be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

It also wanted people to be aware that you could get your flu jab at your local pharmacy – not just at your doctors’ surgery.

The number of asthma and flu deaths tend to peak at around the same time, said Asthma UK. The number of flu deaths has increased 22 times since 2005, it added.

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“People with asthma who are shunning the flu jab could be playing Russian Roulette with their life,” said Asthma UK’s Clinical Lead and practising GP, Dr Andy Whittamore.

“The majority of people with asthma say colds and flu are their top trigger so it makes sense for them to try and protect themselves by getting the flu jab.

“Unfortunately, there are lots of myths about the flu jab not working, causing side effects or causing flu, and our research shows this is preventing people from getting it.

“In fact, the vaccine can’t give you flu, the side effects are minimal and it could save people’s lives by preventing a life-threatening asthma attack.

“We are urging people to get the facts about flu so they can make an informed decision by visiting asthma.org.uk/flu.”

The flu jab is free to all asthma patients that have been using preventative medication, have needed a course of oral or systemic steroids, or have had a previous hospital admission because of their asthma.

It takes up to two weeks for the vaccine to be effective, so Asthma UK urges people to get protected as soon as possible.

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Patients should also take their preventer inhaler as prescribed, and carry their reliever inhaler everywhere they go at all times.

Around 5.4 million people in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma.

Every 10 seconds, someone has a potentially fatal asthma attack in the UK.

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