The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ is advising the 700,000 New Zealanders with respiratory conditions to be well prepared for a potentially tough winter ahead.
"With ongoing Covid-19 infections, new strains of winter flu entering the country and low community immunity to these strains, it’s more important than ever that people with a respiratory illness are taking steps to keep themselves well," says ARFNZ Chief Executive Letitia Harding.
Influenza is a serious illness that affects the nose, throat and lungs, and can worsen existing respiratory conditions like asthma. A further risk this winter is the possibility of having flu and Covid-19 within a short space of time.
"Our message to all of those with respiratory illnesses like asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is to firstly ensure that your condition is well-managed. If it is not well-managed, or you are unsure about what to do if your symptoms get worse, then please see a healthcare practitioner and get advice," says ARFNZ Research and Education Manager Joanna Turner.
ARFNZ is also reminding people to protect themselves by getting a flu vaccine. People with asthma who are prescribed regular preventative medicine and those with other chronic breathing conditions are eligible for free flu vaccines. These vaccines are available to adults and children aged three years and over, between April and December each year from authorised pharmacist vaccinators and GP/health care practices.
Children between the ages of six months and five years, who have a history of significant respiratory illness can also access free flu vaccines from their GP/health care practice. In 2022, the flu vaccine is free for MÄori and Pasifika, aged 55 years and over.
If you have not yet had your Covid-19 vaccine or booster, you can receive this at the same time as your flu vaccine. If you have recently had Covid-19, the Ministry of Health recommends getting your flu vaccine as soon as you are recovered, but if you are unsure talk to a health professional.
The Ministry has also highlighted that there is a low risk of getting a second case of Covid-19, within 90 days of a first infection. In this situation, anyone with underlying respiratory conditions should seek advice from their GP or Healthline.