Many people equate winter weather with influenza, commonly known as the flu. It's important to know that the flu isn't caused by cold wintry weather, but is in fact caused by a virus. Cold winter temperatures and low humidity serve to keep the flu virus stable and in the air longer. Even though this winter has been fairly mild in the mid-Atlantic region, the dangerous threat of the flu still exists.
If you haven't done so already, go out today and get a flu shot, particularly if you are among the people at high risk for developing flu-related complications: children younger than five, adults 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with asthma, chronic lung disease, weakened immune systems, and other conditions. The flu vaccine is still your best bet for avoiding the misery that accompanies the flu. Unfortunately for many people, getting the flu is more than just feeling miserable for a week or two.
It can be a life-threatening illness. Seek emergency medical attention, if in addition to typical cold symptoms, you experience difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, purple or blue discoloration of the lips, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, or sudden dizziness. For a complete list of flu symptoms and more, visit flu.gov, a Web site managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Deb Brown, president and CEO, American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic