As an individual with asthma, it is important to avoid triggers that can cause an asthma attack. But did you know that respiratory infections, such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), can also worsen your asthma symptoms and increase your risk of complications?

RSV is a virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms in healthy people, and asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes inflammation in the airways.  When people with asthma get infected with RSV it can cause additional inflammation in the airways and lungs, leading to wheezing, shortness of breath, and coughing. RSV can also trigger an asthma attack, which can be life-threatening if not treated promptly.

Minimizing risks and exposure to RSV is crucial to protecting oneself from the harsh effects the virus can cause on asthmatics.  RSV is spread through direct contact. Avoiding close contact with people who are sick and washing your hands frequently with soap and water will help to decrease the chances of spread.

Asthma is triggered by allergens or irritants in the environment.  A clean and dust-free home is a perfect first step. Use a damp cloth to wipe down frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, countertops, and toys, and remove dust and allergens from carpets and upholstery with a bagless vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.

Exposure to cigarette smoke and vaping irritates the lungs, worsens your asthma, weakens the immune system, and makes you more susceptible to infections. If you smoke, quit as soon as possible, and encourage your family to smoke outside or in designated areas.  Vaccinations help decrease viral spread and complications, so keeping your vaccinations up to date is vital to reduce further risks.

Your asthma action plan is essential to keep current. An Asthma Action plan is a personalized plan created with the healthcare provider. This plan acts as a road map on asthma symptoms, when to medicate with a prescribed rescue inhaler, and when to seek emergency care.   The action plan will help you understand when to use your rescue inhaler. A rescue inhaler is a medication that can quickly open airways and relieve symptoms during an asthma attack. You should always carry your rescue inhaler and use it as your doctor directs. If your rescue inhaler does not help or you need to use it more often than usual, it may be a sign that your condition is worsening, and emergency care is needed.

It is essential to seek medical attention if you have signs of a severe RSV infection or an asthma attack. A severe RSV infection may present with difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, flaring nostrils, bluish skin color, or dehydration, which differs from the signs of an asthma attack that may include wheezing, chest tightness, or trouble breathing. You may need antiviral medication, oxygen therapy, or other treatments to prevent complications.

Breathe Pennsylvania can help by offering income-based patient assistance programs, including financial support for respiratory medications, air conditioners, nebulizers, pulmonary rehabilitation, and an Asthma tool kit with a spacer, peak flow meter, and an Asthma Action Workbook.

RSV and asthma can be dangerous, so reducing your risk of severe problems with proper prevention, intervention, and management is essential to staying healthy and controlling asthma.