As any parent of an asthma sufferer knows, colds and flu can worsen asthma symptoms. Research by scientists at Imperial College, London, published in 2014, found one possible link: the rhinovirus or common cold virus causes an increase in a protein that is found in the cells that line the airways. This inflammatory protein, known as IL-25, narrows the airways which as well as causing sneezing, coughing and a sore throat, can also trigger an asthma attack.
Although young children are very susceptible to developing colds and flu in the winter, there are some steps you can take to minimise the risks:
- Wash their hands regularly: Viruses are typically spread from touching infected surfaces and then transferring them to the nose or eyes. Wash your child’s hands frequently in soap and hot water to minimise this risk. An antiviral hand wash can also be useful.
- Boost their immune system: make sure they are eating a varied diet with lots of fresh vegetables and fruit. Lots of sleep is also key to maintaining a healthy immunity.
- Think about the flu jab: currently in the UK, children aged two, three and four (on 31 August 2016) and children in school years one, two and three are eligible for the flu vaccine which is delivered through a yearly nasal spray. Children aged between two and 17 with chronic health conditions are also eligible.