Those who live with asthma are likely VERY aware that an influenza infection (flu) or retrovirus infection (common cold) can exacerbate asthma symptoms or even cause an asthma attack. In severe cases, people with asthma, who also have a cold or the flu, often end up going to the hospital more frequently than people who don’t have asthma. Thanks to medical research we understand why.

The Connection of Asthma and the IL-25 Protein

Studies conducted at the Medical Research Council (MRC) & Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma at Imperial College London and King’s College London found that, in patients with asthma, the common cold can cause increases in a protein called IL-25 in the cells around the airways. This protein causes a domino effect of creating an increase in the production of other type-2 cytokines which leads to inflammation / type-2 immune response. In those with asthma, inflammation and narrowed airways can trigger asthma symptoms and, in severe cases, asthma attacks thus resulting in hospitalization.

What Can You Do to Prevent Cold/Flu and Asthma Related Hospitalization?

Everyday respiratory medicines for asthma may fail to control escalated asthma symptoms that result from a cold or the flu. Medical experts advise patients with asthma and their primary care doctors to closely monitor the severity of the cold in order to assess the risk of asthma attacks. Prevention is the best way to ensure that asthma symptoms do not aggravate after a cold or flu infection.

For people with asthma, it is critical to developing an action plan with your physician in the case of cold or flu infection. During cold and flu season, you can prevent infection by:

  • Washing hands frequently
  • Avoiding touching your face and eyes
  • Getting an annual flu vaccine

In any case of infection with a cold or flu, it is important to rest and stay hydrated. Seek immediate medical attention if you have trouble breathing.

Want to learn more about Asthma? Read our Asthma Resource Guide

The allergy group has released a resource guide on asthma. This resource guide covers everything you need to know about asthma, and provides resources on topics like what you should do if someone has an asthma attack, what are the risk factors of asthma, and how do you know if you have asthma.

Read the Asthma Resource Guide