Women’s Health Week: Flu season and pulmonary health

Dr. Michael Blatt, Pulmonologist, OVMC/EORH, says vaccines are important, especially right now.

It's Women's Health Week at NEWS9, and for the next few days, we're focusing on issues that affect women.

On Tuesday, the spotlight is on flu season and pulmonary health.

Fall and winter bring special breathing challenges for many. Doctors are encouraging women -- especially elderly and pregnant women -- to protect themselves from some of those challenges by getting a flu shot and taking other preventative measures.

With winter right around the corner, cold weather, and particularly cold air, can play havoc with your lungs and health.

The experts at Ohio Valley Medical Center/East Ohio Regional Hospital say for people with serious issues, it's normally clear there's a problem.

"Shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, coughing up blood, chest pain -- those are typical symptoms you would see,” said Dr. Lyndave S. Francis-Frank, M.D., Pulmonologist, OVMC/EORH.

However, lung health is important for everyone. Doctors say women can be at a higher risk because of certain factors.

"Pregnant women are predisposed to influenza,” explained Dr. Michael Blatt, Pulmonologist, OVMC/EORH. “Women in their jobs and with children. They get those presents from school and give mom that continuous cough and cold, so it cycles, and the best way to break it is with an influenza vaccine.”

Blatt says vaccines are important, especially right now.

"We are seeing our first cases of flu,” he said. “Just starting October is that time early in the season. And the pneumonia shot is available anytime, the Pertussin shot is available and needed particularly if you're a caregiver.”

Both doctors say pregnant or elderly women should pay close attention to their lung health.

"We should also talk about the pregnant woman because she is more likely to have respiratory problems during her pregnancy and as the belly gets bigger the lung becomes more compressed and doesn't breathe as well,” Blatt said.

"Our patients do tend to be older, but as we do this interview and focus on Respiratory Awareness Week, we try to get more younger patients who are smokers -- or previously smoked -- and have other problems," Francis-Frank said.

Smoking is certainly a habit that can wreak havoc on women's health, but the air this time of year can be a simple cause as well.

The experts say certain mold spores are more prevalent in the autumn, and many who are susceptible are exposed to them while outdoors walking, working, or raking leaves.

"Asthma is not specific to smoking,” Francis-Frank said. “You can have certain allergens, irritants that can cause shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness, so no lung problems aren't only for smokers. Like cancer can increase your risk, it's not only in smokers.”

You can call in to our phone bank to get your women's health questions answered at 1-800-288-0799. They will be here until 6:30 p.m.

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