Patients taking medication for asthma have been reminded to keep up-to-date with vaccinations against pneumococcal disease. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) released the warning following a survey, which revealed many at-risk patients with asthma were unaware of their vaccination status and the dangers of pneumococcal disease.
Asthmatics are at a higher risk of developing pneumonia and other pneumococcal diseases, although the reason for this remains unclear. Corticosteroids such as Asmanex (mometasone) are often used to treat asthma and it is thought these may increase susceptibility to pneumococcal disease because of their immunosuppressant effects. Another possible reason is difference in airways between asthma patients, which may makes them more vulnerable to pneumococcal disease.
The AAFA survey found seven out of ten respondents had asthma, yet less than three out of ten were vaccinated against pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcal disease is a serious bacterial infection with the potential to cause a range of dangerous illnesses, such as pneumonia, meningitis, sepsis and ear infections. The survey found only half of the respondents knew what pneumococcal disease is, despite it claiming the lives of around 50,000 people annually.
People who develop pneumococcal disease experience symptoms that may include: problems breathing, chest pains, a cough, shortness of breath, stiff neck, fever, sweating and chills, and confusion. In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) started recommending all infants and US children receive a vaccination against pneumococcal disease. Patients considered at particular risk are:
- Children below the age of 2
- Adults over 65 years of age
- Adults with weak immune systems or who smoke
- Patients of any age with a chronic condition, such as lung disease or asthma.
Children are particularly vulnerable to pneumonia and pneumococcal diseases. Earlier this year, a study by the CDC published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed seven out of ten pneumonia hospitalizations were youngsters under the age of five. Currently, two varieties of pneumococcal vaccination are available: the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, also known as Prevnar 13, and the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine, otherwise known as Pneumovax23. The CDC recommends the first to infants and children under two years of ages, all adults over 65, and anyone at risk to to certain medical conditions (including asthma). Pneumovax23 is recommended to adults over 65, at-risk patients between 2 and 64 years, and smokers between 19 and 64.
If you are concerned about your vaccination status, speak to your doctor to find out which vaccines you and your family need.