Those who belong to
the following groups are at greater risk for contracting the flu virus. They
are also at greater risk for developing secondary infections or other
Children (5 or Younger)
Children under 5
years old are more likely than most adults to have health complications from
the flu virus. This is because their immune system is not fully developed.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children
under 2 and those who have weakened immune systems are at an even greater risk
for flu-related complications. Children with chronic health problems (such as
diabetes or asthma) are also at risk for the development of complications from
- sinus problems
- ear infections
Older Adults (Above
Older adults are also
at greater risk for serious complications from the flu. This is because the
immune system typically weakens with age.
Flu infection can
also worsen long-term health problems such as heart disease, lung disease, and
Each year in the
United States, people 65 years or older account for more than 60 percent of
those hospitalized for flu-related complications. They account for 90 percent
of flu-related deaths, according to the CDC.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently
approved a special high-dose vaccine for people 65 and over called Fluzone
High-Dose. This vaccine may help to improve the specific anti-influenza immune
response of vaccine recipients in this age group. Talk to your doctor for more
details about this newer vaccine.
the chance of serious flu-related complications to both mother and unborn
Fever is a common
symptom of the flu. It should be treated immediately because of the harmful
effects it can have on the unborn child.
According to the CDC, the flu shot is
the best protection against flu-related complications for both mother and child
(up to 6 months old). However, the nasal spray form of the vaccine is unsafe
for pregnant women because unlike the injectable vaccines, a small risk for
actually developing flu exists with the nasal spray form.
and others with weakened immune systems are at greater danger of complications
from a flu infection. Cancer treatments and regular use of corticosteroid drugs
can also weaken the immune system.
A weakened immune
system is less able to fight off flu infection.
People Receiving Aspirin
Children and teens who
are receiving long-term treatment with aspirin (or other salicylate containing
medication) are at elevated risk for developing Reye’s syndrome if they develop
an acute viral illness with fever, particularly the flu.
Reye’s syndrome is
a rare disorder in which there is sudden brain and liver damage of uncertain
cause. However, it’s known to occur about a week after a viral infection when
salicylates have been given. Young people on chronic aspirin or salicylate
therapy must receive flu vaccination in order to prevent this potential
People with the following conditions are at greater risk for
or spinal conditions
The increased risk is due to weakened immune systems, whether
caused by the condition or by the treatments.
People who live or work in heavily populated places
with close interpersonal contact are also at greater risk for contracting the
flu virus. Examples of these kinds of places include:
- nursing homes
- childcare facilities
- military barracks
- college dormitories
- office buildings
Frequent handwashing and the use of antibacterial
products may help to reduce this risk.
People who fall
into any of the above categories should receive first priority with regard to
yearly flu shots.
According to the CDC, the nasal spray vaccine is not recommended
for people with medical conditions, children under the age of 2, or women who
individuals should also see a doctor immediately if they show any symptoms of
the flu. The first 48 hours after symptoms appear provides the best window for
In some cases, doctors
may want to prescribe antiviral medications.
can sometimes also have flu-related complications, depending on the flu strain.
According to an
article published in PLOS One, during the H1N1
flu pandemic of 2009, better known as “swine flu,” flu complications resulted
in the deaths of adults in their 20s and 30s. People over 60 had the lowest
rate of infection.
This was a rare instance.
Flu viruses almost never significantly harm healthy people in this age group.
This suggests that
this was a new, atypical, and more severe strain of virus that these younger
individuals’ bodies had never been exposed to.
There is also some
belief that the older individuals were better protected from this particular
strain. This is because the 2009 H1N1 virus was similar to a flu virus from the
1950s. These older individuals’ bodies may have retained immunity that those
younger individuals did not have.
For both healthy
and at-risk individuals, the best defense against the flu is a yearly flu shot.
The CDC recommends that
everyone 6 months of age and older receive the vaccine.