By: Dr. Stephen Borchman (Dr. Borchman Pediatrics, Staten Island, NY)
#1 Asthma tip of the year- GET THE FLU VACCINE
Any parent with a child with significant asthma will naturally have an underlying fear that their child may have a catastrophic asthma episode. Their fears are well-founded, as every day in the United States between 3 to 5 individuals succumb to acute asthma. Approximately 1/3 of the victims are children. Acute asthma has a variety of triggers, and these triggers vary greatly from child to child. As I often tell parents, asthmatics are like snowflakes, no two are the same. They all have their own individual characteristics. One of the most common and potent triggers of acute asthma in children are respiratory tract infections. Fortunately, for the most dangerous of infections, we have vaccines. And of all dangerous infections, the one that is most common in our society is the influenza viruses. Influenza viruses change their characteristics every season, and there are at least a half a dozen strains that circulate the globe every year, with more evolving every year. The World Health Organization monitors the frequency and severity of influenza infections yearly and then will decide which strains to include in the annual vaccine. While not perfect, this is currently the best approach we have towards protecting people from the very potentially serious consequences of influenza infection.
Acute asthma occurs when the triggering agent, whether this is an infection, pollen, animal dander, or environmental pollutants causes a sudden inflammatory event in the child’s bronchial tubes. If this inflammation proceeds unchecked, it is often accompanied by airway spasms, resulting in respiratory distress. Any parent who has seen their child in respiratory distress knows exactly what this looks like. It is terrifying and any parent who’s been through a hospitalization with their child certainly never wants to experience that again. Influenza infection is a very potent trigger of airway inflammation. And although the vaccine may not stop every influenza strain from causing illness in your child, getting the vaccine will certainly improve your child’s chances of avoiding hospitalization. This was proven in a 2017 study. In that year, 171 children died of influenza infection in this country. Of those 171 children who died, only one had ever received an influenza vaccine, but not in the year that the fatal event occurred.
So please, on behalf of all the doctors at Allied Physicians group, please follow the recommendations of the American Lung Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and every other medical organization, make sure your child receives influenza vaccination every year. In fact, everyone in the home should be vaccinated for influenza as well to increase the probability of keeping it out of your home. Every year your child receives the vaccine, his or her immune system acquires more information about influenza viruses and is better equipped to defend itself against these infections. Please also follow your doctor‘s recommendations as specified in your asthma control plan. Make sure you contact your practitioner if you feel your child’s asthma is unstable in any way. Lastly, please always keep your follow up appointment so your doctor can monitor and change your child’s medications as needed.
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