Asthma Mom’s Rules for Enduring Flu Season

Possible alternate title for this post:

My Influenza Prevention Tips, Plus Coping Tricks When Prevention Falls to the Petri Dish of Elementary School

Here’s what I focus on in the Asthma Mom household:

Getting Flu Shots

Washing Hands
Always, always, always. And then again one more time.

Eating and Sleeping Well
Connections between nutrition and disease prevention are still not 100% clear, but getting good sleep every night and eating healthy food as much as possible certainly never hurt anyone.

Following Flu Maps
Tools like this CDC one make tracking outbreaks and trends in my city easy every year.

Related, Remembering the Difference Between Colds and Flu
They can look pretty similar, but the flu hits very hard, very fast and almost always involves a fever but not the runny or stuffy nose of a cold. And while colds might involve some minor body aches, they don’t generally make people feel like a truck ran over them.

Tracking flu and recognizing its symptoms haven’t ever prevented my kids from getting sick, but I can catch it early and play hardball from the beginning.

In September 2009, I’d been keeping an eye on swine flu news for several months. Then I got sick and stayed that way for over a week. A couple days later, AG dropped her backpack and jacket by the front door as soon as she walked in the house after school and said, “I’m so TIRED. I think I’m sick.” I pointed her to the couch, handed her the remote, poured some juice, and called our pediatrician to make an appointment for the next day.

Even though she started Tamiflu within 24 hours of getting sick, AG coughed heavily and needed bronchodilator treatments every four to five hours throughout her bout with flu. She also had to sit out during gym class for a week after she felt well enough to return to school, but she did not end up on oral steroids.

True story.

Keeping a Sick Box
I link to this post constantly because it works.

Starting the Bronchodilator After Onset of the Flu but Before Flare Symptoms
Remember: this is what I do, what I’m comfortable with, and what I’ve discussed with my daughter’s doctor. It’s not medical advice. Ask your pediatrician first if you want to try something similar.

I view my daughter’s quick-relief inhaler during influenza a lot like pre-treatment before sports for exercise-induced asthmatics. I know the bronchospasms and airway narrowing are inevitable and imminent, so I play defense early and often.

My Rules for Stomach Bugs
Reader Tips for Allergy and Flu Season

73 responses to “Asthma Mom’s Rules for Enduring Flu Season”

  1. Sarah says:

    Regarding bronchodialators for illness, I do that too. Actually, I’ve been told by my doctor to step up to yellow zone treatment and start scheduled bronchodialators every four hours the moment I think I’m coming down with a cold (before I start flaring from it). I’m not so good at scheduled bronchodialators (I tend to lose track of time), but I do my best with it. It doesn’t prevent me from flaring with illness, but it does typically keep me below the prednisone mark.

  2. Amy says:

    Exactly–AG never gets through an illness w/out flaring (it’s her biggest trigger, after all), but starting the bronchodilator early makes a huge difference in how the flare progresses. If I wait until the flare starts, we just end up chasing it and playing catch-up.

  3. Sarah says:

    Yeah, I hear you! I nip a cold-flare in the bud, and I feel sick for two weeks (since it always takes my lungs an extra week or so to get over illnesses, even with yellow zone treatment). I let it get going, and optimistically, I’m looking at six weeks of uncontrolled asthma. Pessimistically, eight weeks or more… or worse, a course of orals or an ER visit. Plus, if I don’t stay on top of a cold-flare, I get bronchitis more easily. I’m not sure if there’s any science to back that up, but I’ve noticed it in myself.

  4. Kelley says:

    My AG’s asthma doctor has advised as soon as she has ANY sign of any cold to immediately double her flovent. She’s been good – so good i didn’t do it last time, thinking she was getting better….then bronchitis and a steroid burst…so, yeah…i’ll be remembering next time to increase her inhalers immediately. BTW, I have heard it is better protection for the peak of flu season to wait for shot until about november…does anyone know?

  5. Sarah says:

    Kelley, I’m no immunologist, but from what I know, flu shots contain killed virus, which allows your body to build up make its own antibodies to the disease. Immunity from this sort of vaccine tends to last much longer than immunity from a vaccine that just gives you the antibodies (for example, the rabies emergency shot), but shorter than from a vaccine with attenuated (live) bacteria or virus. That said, it also has fewer risks than an attenuated vaccine. So, as a nerdy layperson, I don’t think it would matter too much when in the season you get vaccinated.

    The CDC recommends that vaccinations begin as soon as possible, so I’m guessing that my conjecture is in-line with what the experts think on the subject.

    That said, I’m no health professional… I wonder if any medical professionals follow this blog who could comment with the actual education and research backing them up? :)

  6. Amy says:

    A couple of years ago, when there was a flu shot shortage and I was mildly freaking out at an appointment, our pediatrician said something along the lines of, “Don’t worry. Most flu starts ramping up mid-season, and since outbreaks can sometimes last til late spring, a later shot will actually protect all the way to the end of flu season.”

    Having said that, last year H1N1 hit me in Sept, AG in early Oct. and her sister in late Oct. – though pandemics like that are, of course, a special case.

    Finally, in our own family history, if my kids end up with something nasty, it’ll usually hit between Nov. and early March and I can’t remember any serious illness as late as April or May, so I’ve always tried to time flu shots for Oct.

    Hope that helps!

  7. Samantha says:

    I get miss monkeys flu shot as soon as its available. and *knock on wood* we havent had any flu issues. It may be better with the nasal vaccine which is live Id imagine, but since they dont recommend that for kids under 2 or asthmatics (boy child is not 2 yet and older sister has asthma) I wouldnt swear to that since we havent ever used it.

  8. Sara C. says:

    My girls are scheduled for the flu shot on Sept 25th (they are not happy about it at all…OH WELL)

    We also have a “sick plan” We add pulmicort and q4 nebs by the clock…I’ll typically even do them overnight, because she will sleep through a neb treatment. Following the sick plan to the letter has kept her off pred for the most part, for 2 years. (I think she’s needed pred 4 times in 2 years)

    I’m psychotic about handwashing, and we DO use sanitizers, in places or times we just can’t wash. (Mariella is too short for many public bathroom sinks…so she’ll sanitize instead, for example)

  9. Amy says:

    Totally with you on the overnight treatments during something like the flu – unless AG just desperately needs sleep, I’d rather get up with her in the middle of the night to keep the bronchodilators in her system than subject her to prednisone. Besides, when she’s on round-the-clock treatments, an 8 pm and then a midnight or 1 am one will usually see her through to 6 am.

  10. Samantha says:

    How on earth do you get her to sleep through a neb? I can get mine to fall asleep once its on, sometimes, but… it is ALWAYS a fight to get her on it to start with

  11. Sara C. says:

    Samantha, I think she’s just SO used to it by now. It’s only just recently that she hasn’t needed at least one treatment during the night since before she was 2, so it’s been 4 years…she might stir…and there have been times she’s even talked to me…but she never remembers them in the morning. I also do it “blow by” rather than a mask (when she’s awake, she just puts the mouthpiece in.) When my oldest was a newborn, she had RSV and spent 12 days in PICU, and the mask distressed her to the point she stopped breathing…so the RT said the blow by was not quite effective, but nearly so…and it seems to work well enough for M.

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