American Lung Association: Flu Season Tips to Protect Yourself and Help Stop the Spread of Influenza

Flu season is ramping up with increasing numbers of cases reported in many parts of the country. The American Lung Association wants to remind everyone that influenza (the flu) is a serious, contagious disease that can have severe health consequences, especially for people with chronic lung conditions, such as asthma and COPD. It’s not too late to take precautions to help protect yourself and those around you from the flu.

Each year, approximately 5 to 20 percent of U.S. residents get the flu – or 16 to 65 million people. Depending on the flu virus' severity during the influenza season, deaths as a result of flu complications (such as pneumonia) can range from 3,000 to more than 40,000 people nationwide.

"The flu is more than just 'a bad cold.' It's a serious respiratory illness, that's easily spread from person to person, usually when the person with the flu coughs or sneezes," said Norman Edelman, M.D., Senior Scientific Advisor for the American Lung Association. "Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, weakness, aches and pains. Symptoms can range from mild to life threatening. If you have asthma or other lung diseases, you are at higher risk of developing complications from the flu."

Flu season begins as early as October, usually peaks around January and February, but may not end until as late as May. The seasonal flu vaccine is effective for about six months, so it's recommended that you get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available.

Those at greater risk of developing influenza-related complications, such as pneumonia, include older adults and individuals with chronic health conditions, including asthma, COPD, diabetes and heart disease.

Here are three ways you can fight the flu:

1. Get vaccinated now (if you haven't already)

Influenza vaccine effectiveness can vary from year to year. However, vaccination is still one of the best ways to protect yourself and those around you from the flu, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get an annual influenza vaccination. Get the facts about flu shots. Pneumonia can be a deadly complication related to the flu. Talk to your doctor about whether you should also consider getting vaccinated for pneumonia.

Vaccination against influenza is especially important for pregnant women, people 50 years of age and older, and those with chronic health conditions, including asthma and COPD, as they are at a higher risk of developing influenza-related complications. Parents should be aware that the CDC recommends children 6 months through 8 years of age receiving a flu shot for the first time receive two doses approximately one month apart for optimal protection. Parents should have their children immunized as soon as the vaccine is available in their area, and not wait until later in the flu season.

To find a flu vaccine near you, visit the Flu Vaccine Finder.

2. Get prompt medical attention if you develop flu symptoms

Flu symptoms often appear suddenly. People at higher risk of complications, such as those with chronic lung disease, should seek prompt medical attention. Treatment may include antiviral medicine which can reduce flu symptoms if started within a day or two of getting sick. Symptoms of influenza can include:

  • High fever
  • Headache, muscle aches and joint pain
  • Cough (usually dry)
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion and runny nose
  • Fatigue

Learn more about diagnosing and treating the flu.

3. Help stop the spread of the flu

Help prevent other people from catching your flu. Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when coughing or sneezing. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; and clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu. Stay home from work, school and public places when you are sick. The period when a person with the flu is contagious and can pass it on to others, varies depending on the age and health of the person. In general, most healthy people are contagious beginning one day before their own flu symptoms appear, and will remain contagious five to seven days after becoming sick.

Learn more about protecting yourself and loved ones this flu season.

For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health and influenza, contact the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 202-715-3469.

For more information, contact:

Gregg Tubbs
(202) 715-3469
[email protected]

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