Free flu vaccination for people with respiratory conditions

People in the Black County living with respiratory conditions, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), are being reminded to come forward for a free flu vaccine.

Asthma is a common lung condition that causes breathing difficulties and can affect people of all ages. Those with asthma often have sensitive, inflamed airways that lead to symptoms like coughing, wheezing, feeling breathless, or a tight chest.

COPD is the name for a group of lung conditions that causes breathing difficulties in adults, including emphysema (damage to the air sac in the lungs) and chronic bronchitis (long-term inflammation of the airways).

People with asthma are more likely to have an asthma attack if they catch the flu virus, and those with COPD are more likely to develop pneumonia. These complications can sometimes be life-threatening and lead to hospitalisation.

With almost 79,000 people living with asthma and more than 26,000 people living with COPD in the Black Country, health chiefs are encouraging those eligible to come forward for a flu vaccine if they haven’t already done so.

Dr Max Matonhodze, Respiratory Consultant at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, said:

“If you have a respiratory illness such as COPD or asthma, it’s really important that you look after yourself, especially in the winter when the weather gets colder and respiratory viruses such as the flu start to circulate.

“Flu puts extra strain on your lungs, which can have a significant effect on people with lung conditions, making serious illness more likely.

“The flu vaccine is the safest and most effective way to help protect against flu and is designed to help protect those who are most at risk from developing complications from the virus. That’s why we are asking all eligible individuals to get their flu jab today if they haven’t taken up the offer of getting it already.”

To date, more than 50% of all those in the Black Country with an eligible long-term health condition have received their free flu vaccination, but there are thousands more who can still come forward.

Flu is in circulation throughout the winter months, so it is never too late to take up the offer of vaccination, even if you have previously declined and have changed your mind.

Viv Marsh, specialist asthma nurse and Black Country clinical lead for children and young people’s asthma transformation, said:

“Many people with asthma are used to managing their health well, but may not realise that flu can hit fast. Even if their respiratory condition is mild, flu can trigger symptoms that leave them fighting for breath and increase the risk of a life-threatening asthma attack.

“The flu virus is highly infectious and can also spread very quickly among children. Even healthy children can become seriously ill from flu, however, it can be more serious for children with health conditions such as asthma.

“When you have the flu, airways become more inflamed, and more mucus is produced. This means there’s less room for the air to get through which can make it harder to breathe and can trigger asthma symptoms.

“Having the flu vaccination is the best way to stay protected against flu. For children, the vaccination is usually given via a nasal spray into each nostril which is quick and painless, so I’d encourage parents and carers with eligible children to come forward as soon as they can.”

The nasal spray vaccine offers the best protection for children aged two to 17 years. They will be offered a flu vaccine injection if the nasal spray vaccine is not suitable for them. Injected flu vaccines are also safe and effective.

For more information on the flu vaccine for children, click here, and for more information on asthma, click here.

For more information on the flu vaccine for long-term conditions, visit the NHS website here. Those eligible may be contacted by their GP practice to book an appointment. Alternatively, vaccinations can be booked at a local pharmacy via the National Booking System.