Every year, thousands of people in the U.S. get very sick from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines. People with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (e.g., emphysema, chronic bronchitis) are at a higher risk than the general population for complications from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Asthma and COPD cause the airways of the lungs to swell. In addition, these conditions cause mucus secretions to become thick, resulting in the blockage of the swollen airways which may lead to breathing difficulties. Certain viral and bacterial infections affecting the lungs can also cause swelling of the airways and thicken the secretions. This combination can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia and/or respiratory failure.
Immunizations provide the best protection against infections which may aggravate asthma and/or COPD. The side effects from vaccinations are generally mild and self-limited.
The following vaccinations are strongly recommended for people with lung diseases:
- 1. Influenza:
The 2018-2019 vaccine has been updated from last season’s vaccine to better match circulating viruses. Immunity from this vaccination usually begins to develop after approximately 2 weeks.
Injectable influenza vaccines (i.e., flu shots) are approved for use in individuals aged 6 months and older. Flu shots have a long established safety record in people with asthma. Individuals with asthma can receive either a trivalent or a quadrivalent vaccine.
The nasal spray vaccine is recommended as an option for use in people 2 through 49 years of age. It should be noted that anyone with asthma is at increased risk for wheezing after receiving the nasal spray flu vaccine. Nasal spray vaccine is also not recommended for pregnant women, individuals with weakened immune systems and their care givers, and children 2 through 4 years of age who have had a history of wheezing in the past 12 months. It is important to note that the influenza virus in the nasal spray vaccine a live attenuated (i.e., weakened) virus compared with a killed virus that is used in a flu shot.
People with egg allergies can receive any recommended age-appropriate influenza vaccine that is otherwise appropriate, if given the approval by their primary care physician. Individuals who have a history of severe egg allergy (i.e., those who have had any symptom other than hives after exposure to egg) should be vaccinated in a medical setting, supervised by a physician who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic reactions. Again, if one has an egg allergy, one should always check with their primary care physician about getting a flu vaccination and only receive it, if approved by the primary care physician.
In addition to getting a flu vaccine, people with asthma should take everyday preventive actions including covering coughs, washing hands often, and avoiding individuals who are sick.
- Pneumococcal Vaccines:
Pneumococcus is a bacteria that causes thousands of infections, such as meningitis, bloodstream infections (e.g., sepsis), pneumonia, and ear infections. Pneumococcal vaccines are very good at preventing severe disease. Two types of vaccines are available:
The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (e.g., PCV13 or Prevnar) protects against 13 strains of pneumococcal bacteria. It is recommended for young children and adults 65 years of age or older. Older children and adults younger than 65 years of age who are at increased risk for getting pneumococcal disease may also need a dose of PCV13.
The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (e.g., PPSV23 or Pneumovax) protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria. It is recommended for all adults 65 years of age and older, as well as for individuals 2 years of age and older who are at increased risk, such as those with asthma and/or COPD.
Both vaccines are recommended and generally they should be given 1 year apart.
- Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis:
This combination vaccine protects against 3 serious bacterial infections, namely diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (i.e., whooping cough). DTaP is the childhood vaccine, and Tdap is the pertussis booster vaccine for preteens, teens, and adults. A Td booster is recommended once every 10 years. Most Ob/Gyn doctors will recommend the Tdap to all pregnant women. It is usually recommended in the 3rd trimester. The Tdap is also usually recommended for each subsequent pregnancy. In addition, pediatricians generally recommend that all care-givers and individuals that will be in close and frequent proximity to the newborn also be vaccinated with Tdap.
Shingles is a painful and/or itchy rash that usually develops on one side of the body, often the face or torso. It is caused by the re-activation of the chickenpox virus (i.e., varicella-zoster virus) that has been lying dormant in a nerve of an individual. The rash consists of small blisters that typically scab over in 7 to 10 days and generally clears up within 2 to 4 weeks. For some individuals, the pain can last for months or even years after the rash disappears.
A new shingles vaccine called Shingrix (i.e., recombinant zoster vaccine) was licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017. It is recommended that healthy adults 50 years of age and older receive two doses of Shingrix, 2 to 6 months apart. Shingrix provides strong protection against shingles and the complication of long term pain. Patients who have previously received Zostavax, an older shingles vaccine, are recommended to subsequently receive Shingrix, as it is more efficacious.
The board certified allergists/immunologists at Black & Kletz Allergy have expertise is immunizations as well as the diagnosis and treatment of immunological conditions. In addition to diagnosing and treating immune disorders, the allergy specialists at Black & Kletz Allergy diagnose and treat a wide array of allergic conditions such as hay fever (i.e., allergic rhinitis), sinus disease, asthma, hives (i.e., urticaria), swelling episodes (i.e., angioedema), generalized itching (i.e., pruritus), anaphylaxis, insect sting allergies, food allergies, medication allergies, and eosinophilic esophagitis. We have 3 offices in the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland metropolitan area with locations in Washington, DC, McLean, VA (Tysons Corner, VA), and Manassas, VA. We offer parking at each location and the Washington, DC and McLean, VA locations are Metro accessible. There is a free shuttle that runs between our McLean, VA office and the Spring Hill metro station on the silver line.
If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call us to schedule a visit at your desired location. Alternatively, you may click Request an Appointment and we will respond to you within 24 hours by the next business day. Black & Kletz Allergy has been treating allergy, asthma, and immune-related conditions for more than 50 years in the Washington, DC and Northern Virginia metropolitan area. We are board certified to see both adult and pediatric patients and we are determined to improve the quality of life in individuals who may suffer from unwanted allergies, asthma, sinus disease, or immune dysfunction.