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Question of the Moment:

My son (age 15 years) has had asthma since he was a little boy.  He used to need nebulizers twice a day, and was even hospitalized for wheezing at one point.  However, over the past 5 years, he seems to have outgrown the asthma, to the point where he doesn't even use his rescue inhaler more than once or twice a year.  Our family doctor has recommended the swine flu shot, but I'm not sure.  Does he really need it?

The Allergist Mommy's Answer:

I would recommend that a mild adolescent asthmatic like your son is exactly the type of patient who should be receiving the H1N1 influenza vaccine.  Here's why:

Asthma severity is fluid over time, but the tendency of asthmatic airways to spasm in response to the right trigger generally persists. "Once an asthmatic, always an asthmatic."  Even the mildest asthmatic (in terms of frequency of symptoms) can have a severe flare after being infected with the influenza virus.  Your son may feel well now, but is much more likely than his non-asthmatic friends to become very ill if he contracts influenza.

In addition to being higher risk for a bad outcome from influenza infection, your son also happens to fall in the age group that (due to a teenager's social habits and school-going) is responsible for rapid spread of the virus during epidemics and pandemics.  So, vaccinating school-going children is a great way to slow down the spread of the virus.