- Influenza (flu) patients at high risk for serious complications can get very sick and die from the flu.
- Antiviral drugs for treating the flu, available by prescription, can lessen symptoms and shorten the flu’s duration.
- All high-risk patients and all hospitalized patients with suspected flu should be treated with antivirals as soon as possible, without waiting for confirmatory flu testing.
People at High Risk of Developing Flu–Related Complications
Most people who get the 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 result in being hospitalized and occasionally result in death. Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections are examples of flu-related complications. The flu also can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure may experience a worsening of this condition that is triggered by the flu. The list below includes the groups of people more likely to get flu-related complications if they get sick from influenza.
People at High Risk for Developing Flu-Related Complications
- Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
- Adults 65 years of age and older
- Pregnant women (and women up to two weeks post partum)
- Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- Also, American Indians and Alaskan Natives[1.1 MB, 2 pages] seem to be at higher risk of flu complications
- Neurological and neurodevelopmental 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].
- Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis)
- 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)
- People younger than 19 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
- People who are morbidly obese (Body Mass Index, or BMI, of 40 or greater)
Note: There is no recommendation for pregnant women or people with pre-existing medical conditions to seek special permission or secure written consent from their doctor for influenza vaccination if they get vaccinated at a worksite clinic, pharmacy or other location outside of their physician's office. For more information, visit Misconceptions about Seasonal Flu and Flu Vaccines.