What is the flu?

Influenza, or the flu is a highly contagious viral infection that infects the respiratory tract (nose, throat and lungs). It spreads easily from person to person through the air by coughing or sneezing, or by direct contact with the virus on hard surfaces or people’s hands. You can’t see it but it is there.

Australian flu outbreaks are generally seasonal, occurring between May and September.

Symptoms of flu can include:

  • High fever
  • Dry cough
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Feeling unwell

How will the flu impact asthma?

The flu and other viral infections are the most common trigger for asthma flare-ups.

People with asthma who contract influenza are at higher risk of experiencing complications. These complications can include:

  • more severe asthma flare-ups,
  • pneumonia, bronchitis, ear infections,
  • days lost from work and school,
  • hospitalisation and even death.

What can you do?

The best way to protect yourself from the flu and spreading it to others is annual flu vaccination.

The flu virus is constantly changing, so it is important to have the flu vaccine every year. It is best to be vaccinated in autumn so your body has time to protect itself before the flu season starts. This will ensure you and your family are protected against the most recent flu virus strains that maybe around.

The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone from six months of age.

Everyone with asthma including all family members should be immunised against the flu.

People who are most at risk of influenza and its complications can access the vaccine free under the National Immunisation Program, these are:

  • People aged 65 years and over
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months to less than five years
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are 15 years and over
  • Pregnant women
  • People aged six months and over with medical conditions such as severe asthma.

Stop the spread of flu

  • Wash your hands regularly and properly with soap and water, particularly after touching your nose or mouth and before handling food.
  • Sneezing and coughing into tissues or your elbow not directly into your hands, to prevent the spread of germs. Tissues should be thrown away immediately and hands washed.
  • Clean surfaces regularly, especially if someone has a viral illness.
  • Not sharing personal items
  • Try to avoid contact with infected people. If you can’t, then stand at least one metre away from the infected person and don’t stand directly opposite them.
  • If unwell with flu-like symptoms it is advisable to stay at home to prevent the germs spreading in the workplace and the community.

Visit your GP for an asthma review to make sure you’re on the right medicines to manage your asthma, particularly your preventer and make sure your Asthma Action Plan  is up to date, this will help you recognise and treat signs of worsening asthma symptoms.

Speak with your GP or pharmacist for further information about asthma and the flu.

Protect your family and friends who have asthma – get immunised against influenza.

For more information:

Asthma, the Flu and You Infographic  (PDF 443.5KB)

Asthma and Flu Consumer Survey Results Infographic  (PDF 2.7MB)

Immunise Australia


Health Professional Factsheets:


References and further info:

Australian Government Department of Health, National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System http://www9.health.gov.au/cda/source/rpt_2.cfm


Accessed on: 02 March 2017