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Flu

Are You at High Risk for Flu and Its Complications?

Most people who get sick with flu will have mild illness, will not need medical care or antiviral drugs and will recover in less than two weeks.

Some people, however, are more likely to get flu complications that can result in hospitalization and sometimes death. Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections are examples of flu-related complications. Flu also can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have flu and people with chronic congestive heart failure may experience a worsening of this condition triggered by flu. (See below for a list of these conditions.) Age is a factor as well. People over 65 are more vulnerable to the flu and are likelier to have flu complications if they do get it. In recent years, it’s estimated that between about 70 percent and 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older and between 50 percent and 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred among people in this age group.

There are two vaccines designed for people 65 and older.

Symptoms of flu include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

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Here, a list of health problems that may become worse if a person gets the flu:

Asthma

Neurologic and neurodevelopment conditions

Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)

Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis)

Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes mellitus)

Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)

Kidney disorders

Liver disorders

Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders)

People who are obese with a body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher

People younger than 19 years of age on long-term aspirin- or salicylate-containing medications.

People with a weakened immune system due to disease (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or some cancers such as leukemia) or medications (such as those receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer, or persons with chronic conditions requiring chronic corticosteroids or other drugs that suppress the immune system).

People 65 years and older should get a flu shot and not a nasal spray vaccine, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC). There are regular flu shots that are approved for use in people 65 years and older and there also are two vaccines designed specifically for people 65 years and older: the high-dose flu vaccine, which protects against four types of flu, and the adjuvanted vaccine, which is made with an additive that creates a stronger immune response. The high dose and adjuvanted flu vaccines may result in more of the temporary, mild side effects that can occur with standard-dose seasonal shots. Side effects can include pain, redness or swelling at the injection site, headache, muscle ache and malaise. These symptoms typically resolve within one to three days. Talk with your health care provider about which vaccine is best for you.

Courtesy of the CDC. For more information on health issues, visit the CDC’s website.

 

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