Flu vaccine is vital for patients living with asthma

Flu can be life-threatening, particularly to those living with respiratory conditions. Head of Services, Anna Ruthven talks about how community pharmacy can help asthmatics protect themselves from the potentially devastating consequences of flu this winter.

With winter well and truly on the way, the dreaded flu season is upon us. Those who have never experienced the flu won’t understand just how debilitating it can be. For most it’s an unpleasant but manageable illness. However, for the over 65s, pregnant women and anyone with an underlying health condition, flu can present very real danger. Flu can affect anyone, even those who are fit and healthy, but for asthmatics and people with respiratory diseases, this time of year can be particularly difficult.

81% of the 5.4 million people in the UK living with asthma say their symptoms get worse when they have a cold or flu. Recent news has highlighted the potentially lethal consequences of having asthma and flu and experts are urging asthmatics to protect themselves from the virus by having a flu jab. In February of this year, a father was put in a coma after suffering an asthma attack triggered by the flu which demonstrates just how deadly it can be.

Asthmatics are part of the ‘at-risk group’ because they already have weakened airways. Flu causes inflammation of the respiratory system which triggers symptoms, leaving sufferers coughing, wheezing and struggling for breath. Flu can prompt severe asthma attacks and lead to more complicated and life-threatening conditions such as pneumonia.

Shockingly, only half of those with chronic respiratory disease, including asthma, received their free flu vaccine last winter. With over 1 million GP appointments made each year relating to flu, not to mention the tens of thousands of people who are admitted to hospital as a result of it, this only adds to the on-going pressures that our national health service is currently facing.

Winter is already a challenging time of the year for the NHS, so it’s essential the general public start to take responsibility for managing their health. It’s vital those at risk protect themselves by being vaccinated and we can help with this.

Community pharmacies in England were commissioned to deliver flu vaccinations in September 2015. Last year in the over 1.4 million flu vaccinations were delivered to patients through pharmacy, and in our LloydsPharmacy stores alone we helped to protect over 280,000 patients in local communities.

With GP surgeries under increasing pressure and patients finding it more and more difficult to make appointments, offering flu vaccinations in the community gives patients a greater level of choice and convenience. As a business, we want our customers and patients to be able to access healthcare where and when they want it. Those living with asthma who are eligible to receive flu jabs should take advantage of the free service. Those that aren’t should consider paying to have one because the potential consequences of flu far outweigh the price of getting a jab.