People with Medical Conditions
Most people who get the flu will have mild illness and recover within a few days to two weeks. But people who have existing or chronic medical conditions have a higher risk of serious complications from flu including hospitalization and even death. Complications may include:
- Bacterial pneumonia
- Worsening of chronic conditions such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes
- In children, sinus problems and ear infections.
People with pre-existing medical conditions are more likely to be hospitalized for flu. According to the CDC, on average, more than 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized each year for respiratory and heart conditions or illnesses associated with seasonal flu.
Conditions that Put a Person at Greater Risk
- Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis)
- Neurological and neuro-developmental conditions including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle, such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy (seizure disorders), stroke, intellectual disability (mental retardation), moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injury.
- Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)
- Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)
- Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes mellitus)
- Kidney disorders
- Liver disorders
- Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders)
- Weakened immune system due to disease or medication (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or cancer, or those on chronic steroids)
- Morbid obesity (Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or greater)
- Long-term aspirin therapy among children and teens (19 years or age or younger)
What to Do
If you or a loved one falls into a high risk category, make sure to get you annual flu shot as early as possible each flu season. Talk to your healthcare provider about getting the flu vaccine and learn about other ways to protect yourself from flu.
The CDC also urges anyone who lives or works closely with an at-risk person to get vaccinated as soon as possible. If you or a loved one has existing health problems, it's a good idea for everyone in the home to be vaccinated for the flu.
See these CDC resources to learn more about why those at greater risk for flu complications and their families/caregivers need to take special precautions.
- People with Health Conditions and the Flu This resource includes guidelines for people with asthma, diabetes, cancer, HIV-AIDS, and heart disease.
- Flu and People with Asthma
- Flu and People with Diabetes
- If You Have Diabetes, a Flu Shot Could Save Your Life (pdf)
- Flu and Heart Disease & Stroke
- HIV/AIDS and the Flu
- Cancer, the Flu and You
Be Prepared in a Flu Outbreak
- Get a written record from your doctor of the kind of chronic disease(s) you have and the treatment you are receiving. Keep this information with you at all times in case you have to go to the hospital.
- Prepare a typed or printed list of all medications usually taken and the times of day they are taken. Also include necessary medical supplies or equipment such as syringes, strips, lancets if you have diabetes, or oxygen if you have COPD.
- Keep the name, phone number, and office address of your doctor or health care provider with you at all times.
- If you use medications for your condition, continue taking those medications even if you become sick with the flu, unless your doctor or health care provider says otherwise
- Be alert to changes in your breathing, especially if you have heart failure, congestive heart disease or COPD. Promptly report changes to your doctor or health care provider.
- Inform family members or close friends of your medical condition and let them know if you get sick with flu.