RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Any flu outbreak can stir up dangerous complications, but the novel H1N1 virus, known also as swine flu, has been shown in studies to invade deeper into the lungs than seasonal flu. This is particularly problematic for the roughly 7 percent of the American population that suffers from asthma. Whatever our particular vulnerability to flu complications, we can all act now to ditch common household lung irritants, and enter the flu season with the healthiest set of pipes possible.
THE DETAILS: Fall can be a challenging time for the lungs, especially for children. While respiratory infections are quite common in kids (they average 5 to 10 a year), a back-to-school return of the swine flu virus could prove far more serious than your average cold, seasonal flu, or sinus infection because young people seem to have little immunity to the novel virus. “In the next month, we’re going into the usual respiratory infection season,” explains Richard Gower, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. “Back-to-school infection rates rise because kids are commingling at school, and kids don’t typically wash their hands enough or cover their mouths when they sneeze.” Which allows flu virus and other infectious agents to stay in the population longer, and infect adults as well.
WHAT IT MEANS: No one can predict if the swine flu virus will return with a vengeance this fall, if it will mutate into a more dangerous (or weaker) form, or if it’ll fizzle out without causing much fuss. But it is coming. After the World Health Organization declared a pandemic in June, the virus continued to circulate around the country, while other strains intermingled with seasonal flu virus in the Southern Hemisphere. Strong, healthy lungs will have a better chance of getting through the outbreak without problems.
Published on: August 4, 2009