Photo of woman receiving a shot in the arm from a medical professional

Getting the flu vaccine is very important when flu season arrives in the late summer and fall. This is especially true for people with moderate to severe asthma who are at risk for serious complications if they get the flu or COVID-19.

Who needs a flu shot?

The flu vaccine should be given to all people 6 months of age or older, especially those who are at high risk for flu complications. People who are at high risk for severe flu complications include:

  • people who are 65 years or older
  • people with chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma or COPD
  • pregnant women.

The flu vaccine is available at your doctor’s office, community clinic, pharmacy and some supermarkets. It is the best insurance against getting sick with the flu and passing it on to others in your family or community.

If you are COVID-19 positive, suspect you may have COVID-19, or you are recovering from a cold, you should delay getting the flu vaccine until you are no longer ill.

The 2023-24 flu vaccine includes updates to influenza A (H1N1), one of the most common flu strains. Read the latest flu vaccine recommendations for the 2023-24 flu season.

Why is it important for people with asthma to get a flu shot every year?

All people with asthma are at risk for flu complications even if their asthma is well controlled. Flu can result in inflamed airways and lungs and trigger an asthma attack. People with asthma are more likely to develop pneumonia if they are sick with flu than people who do not have asthma.

More than 25 million people in the United States have asthma, and 10 people die from the disease daily. Protection against the flu is vital for that reason.

Why is it even more important to get a flu shot during the COVID-19 pandemic?

People with moderate to severe asthma are at high risk for severe COVID-19 complications, according to the CDC.

By getting the flu vaccine, you protect yourself from the flu. You also protect yourself from severe COVID-19 illness and hospitalization.

You can further protect yourself by getting the COVID-19 vaccine. This helps reduce strain on the healthcare system and saves medical resources.

Is it possible to have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time?

It is possible to have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, CDC says. This could have a severe impact on the body’s immune system and lungs. it could also increase the risk of developing pneumonia. You may need to be hospitalized if you are diagnosed with both. This is another good reason to get a flu shot.

Symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 can be similar. Both attack the respiratory system and can involve fever, severe body aches, sore throat, dry cough and fatigue.

Can I get the flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time?

Yes. Current guidance for the administration of COVID-19 vaccines says that COVID-19 vaccines can be administered with other vaccines, including the influenza vaccine.

Will the flu shot help fight coronavirus?

No. The flu vaccine offers no protection from COVID-19 and it’s not a treatment for coronavirus, CDC says.

Is asthma a risk factor for serious outcomes from COVID-19?

CDC says people with moderate to severe asthma are at increased risk for serious outcomes from COVID-19. For this reason, it is important to take preventive steps to avoid the flu if you have asthma. These preventive steps include getting the flu vaccine.

What preventive steps are necessary for people with asthma during flu season?

Get the flu vaccine. It is best to get it in September or October, when flu season typically begins. But any time is better than not at all.

Make sure you have an Asthma Action Plan developed with your doctor. (You may need to update it during flu season.) Follow the Asthma Action Plan for taking quick-relief and daily controller medications. If your child has asthma, make sure the school has the Asthma Action Plan on file.

Take asthma medications exactly as your doctor prescribes. Quick-relief inhalers are for sudden symptoms while daily controller inhalers encourage long-term maintenance. Be sure you are using correct technique when using your inhaler so you can maximize the amount of asthma medication that reaches your lungs. Ask to demonstrate your technique with your doctor so you can ensure you’re using it properly.

Avoid asthma triggers that can cause you to have an asthma flare. Common triggers include:

  • pollen
  • mold
  • cigarette smoke
  • air pollution
  • pet dander
  • household pests such as mice, cockroaches and dust mites.

If you get sick with flu symptoms, call your doctor right away. The antiviral drug oseltamivir – commonly known as Tamiflu® – can be used by people with asthma but it is most effective if used within 48 hours after onset of symptoms. People with asthma should not use zanamivir (Relenza®) or peramivir (Rapivab®) because they may cause wheezing in people with asthma.

See Video Transcript Ask the Allergist: Egg Allergy and Flu/COVID-19 Vaccines 

What are current recommendations for egg allergy and the flu vaccine?

People with egg allergies often believe they should avoid the flu vaccine. Most flu vaccines contain a tiny amount of egg protein. But severe allergic reactions to vaccines in people with egg allergy are rare. The rate of anaphylaxis from all vaccines is 1.31 for every 1 million vaccines given.

In its 2023-24 guidance for the flu vaccine, CDC says flu vaccines do not pose a risk for a severe allergic reaction to eggs. So it is safe for people with egg allergy to receive the flu vaccine.

People who have had an allergic reaction to eggs or needed to use epinephrine to treat an allergic reaction to eggs can get their flu vaccine in a medical setting as a precaution. They can ask staff to monitor them to identify and treat a potential allergic reaction. But the new CDC guidance says this is no longer necessary for people with egg allergy.

Any person who has experienced a severe allergic reaction to the flu vaccine should not receive a flu vaccine in the future.

For additional information:
Infections, Viruses and Influenza
COVID-19 Information Center
What if I Can’t Afford My Asthma Medication
Infographic: Distinguishing between COVID-19 vs Allergies vs Flu