The flu is a normal illness for most individuals. After a few days with a cough, body aches, fever and resting at home, most people are back to normal.
However, for some this is sadly not the case. There are high risk individuals for whom the flu can be very dangerous. It can cause them to have an extended stay at the hospital. In some cases, it can even lead to death. With the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s flu season is even more dangerous.
So, who exactly is at high risk for getting flu complications? Let us walk you through our list.
Senior citizens, especially over the age of 65, have a greater chance of having complications from the flu. This is because the older you get, the weaker your immune system becomes. This then means it is harder for your body to fight off germs. Additionally, many older people have underlying health conditions such as lung disease, diabetes and heart disease. These heath conditions on their own can cause complications with the flu.
If you fall in this age group, talk to your primary care provider about a high-dose flu shot. They are available for older adults and can sometimes work better for this age group than the normal flu vaccine.
Kids under the age of five
Young children, just like older adults, are at greater risk for complications from the flu. While senior citizens can have a weakened immune system, young children can run into issues because their immunity system is still developing. While developing, it might not be as strong, which can cause complications when it is trying to fight off a virus, like the flu. This is especially true for babies and toddlers.
Women who are pregnant
Be sure to take extra flu precautions if you are pregnant or recently had a baby. During this time, your body is experiencing many changes. These changes could impact your immune system, causing it to not be as strong. If you are pregnant, your unborn baby can be impacted by flu complications as well. It can mean birth defects as well as early labor.
Individuals with weakened immune systems or preexisting conditions
Any person of any age with a weakened immune system is at high risk for flu complications.
Your immune system could be weak for a variety of reasons, though. There are certain medicines and treatments, such as chemotherapy, that can make your immune system less strong.
There are also many preexisting health conditions that impact immunity as well. They include:
- Metabolic disorders
- Kidney disease
- Lung disease
- Blood disorders
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Neurological (brain) conditions
So, what are these complications the flu can cause?
Again, more individuals who contract the flu virus will not experience complications or any long-term effects. There could be some minor ones though, such as a sinus or ear infection.
In more complicated scenarios the flu can become pneumonia, an infection that makes your lungs swell. Additionally, if a person has any underlying health conditions, the flu can cause these conditions to worsen. Extreme cases of the flu can cause widespread infection throughout the body. Organs can stop working properly. The flu can even cause an increase in the risk for a heart attack.
How can I prevent the flu?
The best thing everyone can do to prevent the flu is to get your flu vaccine every year. People over the age of six months should get one. If you have any concerns, consult with your primary care provider first.
The flu shot is not 100% effective, even though it definitely helps prevent this virus. But because this is the cause, everyone should also practice preventive measures at this time. Luckily, preventive measures that help protect us from COVID-19 also protect us from the flu. They include:
- Washing your hands often, especially after you arrive home from being out in public
- Practicing social distancing from others
- Wearing a face mask
And finally, keep your immune system strong during flu season by practicing healthy habits. This means reducing stress, eating healthy foods, staying active and getting your rest each night.
If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, which may include fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat or body aches, you should call your primary care provider’s office. You may be encouraged to complete a virtual visit.