Influenza and your Lungs

Influenza, commonly referred to as the “flu,” is a serious respiratory illness that, unfortunately, is easily spread between people. Everyone is at risk for getting and spreading influenza, and individuals who have been diagnosed with asthma or other lung diseases are at a higher risk of developing complications related to flu infection.

Health officials recommend that all people (with the exception of infants younger than 6 months) typically receive a flu vaccine every year. Discuss the flu and whether you should receive annual vaccination with your doctor.

Should I get the flu vaccine?

The flu vaccine is the single best way to prevent getting the flu each year. Overall, health officials recommend that everyone (except for infants younger than 6 months of age) receive an influenza vaccine annually. Your doctor will likely be able to give you the flu vaccine during your appointment, if there isn’t a medical condition (like an allergy to one of the vaccine components) that prevents you from receiving the flu vaccine.

Is there anything else that helps to prevent the spread of influenza?

There are a few things that you can do to help protect yourself from the flu virus:

  • Frequent Handwashing: The flu virus is commonly transmitted to your body when you touch your own eyes, nose, or mouth. Wash your hands, using soap and warm water, for at least 30 seconds, frequently throughout the day.
  • Stay Away: If you are sick, stay home from work or school, and avoid public places as much as possible. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue (or your elbow) when coughing or sneezing – never use your hand, your hands will easily transfer the virus to surfaces that you touch.

How do I know if my symptoms are the flu?

Overall, it’s difficult to tell whether you have the flu based on your symptoms alone. You may need to see your doctor to tell whether you have developed influenza (or a complication of the flu!). If you have developed flu-like symptoms and are concerned (especially if you have asthma, a lung condition, or other risk factor for developing complications for the flu), talk to your healthcare provider. There are tests that your doctor can order, and many doctors opt to prescribe antiviral medications when they know for sure you have influenza and are at risk for suffering complications.

If I catch the flu, what should I do?

Call your doctor if you are concerned about your illness. In the meantime, stay home and avoid contact with others as much as possible to prevent the spread of your illness. If you considered high-risk due to asthma, COPD, or other risk factors, be sure to contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible – don’t wait for your illness to get worse! The most common serious complication of influenza is Pneumonia, so seek treatment as quickly as possible.

For more information on influenza and your lungs, visit the American Lung Association at