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Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections (also called respiratory illnesses) are common. These infections affect your lungs, nose, sinuses, and throat, especially when you have asthma. They can cause a runny nose, cough, fever, or sore throat.

Respiratory infections are a common asthma trigger, especially in children. Respiratory infections can cause severe symptoms (an asthma episode or attack).
Common respiratory infections include:

You can have more than one respiratory infection at the same time.

Chart showing COVID-19 symptoms
What Do I Do If I Have a Respiratory Illness?
  • Talk with your doctor about your symptoms. Ask if you can take over-the-counter medicines to reduce some of your symptoms.
  • Follow your Asthma Action Plan. Be sure your Asthma Action Plan tells you what to do if you get sick. If it doesn’t, call your doctor to ask if you should change how you take your prescribed asthma medicine while you are sick. If you get symptoms of flu or COVID-19, or any symptoms that concern you, contact your doctor right away.
  • Keep your quick-relief asthma medicine with you at all times to treat asthma symptoms.
  • Call 911 immediately if you have any of these danger signs:
    • Trouble walking or talking due to shortness of breath
    • Cyanosis which is tissue color changes on mucus membranes (like lips and around the eyes) and fingertips or nail beds – the color appears grayish or whitish on darker skin tones and bluish on lighter skin tones
    • Fast breathing with chest retractions (when skin sucks in between or around the chest plate and/or rib bones when inhaling)
    • Other signs of a severe asthma attack
How Can I Prevent Respiratory Infections?

Infections like the flu are a major cause of asthma episodes or attacks. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with asthma are at higher risk for developing serious complications (like pneumonia) from the flu. Follow these steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from respiratory infections:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds, especially after touching frequently used surfaces like doorknobs.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Get a yearly flu shot.
  • Talk with your doctor about getting the pneumococcal [noo-muh-KOK-uhl] shot. You should only need the shot once and a booster as needed.
  • Stay away from people who are sick. If you have symptoms, stay home.
  • 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.

While COVID-19 is spreading, also follow these steps:

  • Stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other people.
  • Avoid large crowds.
  • Wear a face mask.
  • Travel only if necessary.

It’s important to always keep your asthma under control. It is very important when you’re sick. If your asthma is well-controlled when you get sick, you reduce your chances of having an asthma attack, having complications, or being hospitalized.

Steps to stop the spread of respiratory infections

Respiratory Illness Resource Center

Protect Yourself From Respiratory Infections: People with asthma and their caregivers need to know about respiratory infections. They are a major cause of asthma symptoms and attacks. And some illnesses can lead to other serious conditions, like pneumonia. This blog post talks about four common infections, such as the flu, COVID-19, pneumococcal disease, and the common cold.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): What People With Asthma Need to Know: This blog post gives general information on COVID-19. It helps people with asthma understand risk, prevention, and what to do if you catch it.

What People With Asthma Need to Know About Face Masks During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Face masks are an important part of protecting ourselves and others against COVID-19. But can people with asthma wear face masks? What are the best options for people with asthma, especially if your job requires them? This blog post addresses many of the questions you may have about asthma and face masks.

Cleaning Your Hands With Soap and Hand Sanitizer: What Is Best to Protect Yourself From COVID-19 and Other Illnesses?: Keeping your hands clean is one of the easiest ways to reduce the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. It can also help help protect you from colds, flu, and other respiratory infections. Learn the right way to clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

4 Things You Must Know About the Flu If You Have Asthma: People with asthma are at high risk of having serious complications from the flu. Learn how to protect yourself and what to do if you do catch it.

Flu Facts: Flu Vaccine and Asthma: This blog post answers many of the most common questions people with asthma have about the flu vaccine. Get the facts on why the flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from the influenza virus.

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Medical Review
May 2021 by Neeru Khurana Hershey, MD, PhD