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Are You at Risk for Serious Flu-Related Complications?

Influenza (flu) is not just a common cold. Anyone can get sick with flu, but certain people are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications, including:

  • Infants and children age 5 years and younger
  • Adults age 65 and older
  • Pregnant women (and women up to two weeks postpartum)
  • People with certain chronic health conditions
  • Certain racial and ethnic groups

Annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone age 6 months and older to help reduce the risk of flu-related complications.

Infants and children

Children younger than age 5 years–especially those younger than age 2 years–are at higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications

  • Because infants younger than age 6 months are too young to be vaccinated, the best way to protect them is to ensure that those around them are vaccinated and that mothers get vaccinated while they are still pregnant
  • Flu can be dangerous for children. Complications can include dehydration, ear infections, pneumonia, hospitalization, and death

Adults age 65 and older

Adults age 65 years and older are at greater risk of flu-related complications, in part because of decreasing immune function with increasing age.

  • During most flu seasons, older adults account for the majority of flu-related deaths and more than half of all flu-related hospitalizations
  • Several vaccine options are available specifically for adults age 65 years and older, including high dose, adjuvanted, and recombinant flu vaccines, which help them build a higher immune response

Pregnant women (and women up to two weeks postpartum)

Flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women and pregnant women with flu are at increased risk of hospitalization.

  • Studies indicate that babies whose mothers are vaccinated during pregnancy are protected from flu infection for several months after they are born

People with certain chronic health conditions

  • Heart disease: Heart disease patients are six times more likely to have a heart attack within seven days of influenza infection. People with heart disease and those who have had a stroke are at higher risk for developing serious complications from flu, and even death. Increased inflammation caused by flu infection can make heart disease symptoms worse even weeks after flu symptoms have resolved, leaving people vulnerable to permanent loss of function and disability.
  • Lung disease (including asthma and/or COPD): People with asthma and/or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) have an increased risk of developing serious flu-related complications. Flu can have a direct effect by increasing inflammation in the lungs and airways, which can trigger asthma attacks and make COPD symptoms worse
  • Diabetes: People with diabetes have a greater risk of flu-related complications. Diabetes can interfere with the body’s ability to fight flu, and flu infection can interfere with management of blood sugar levels
  • Compromised immune system: People who have weakened immune systems such as current and former cancer patients and people living with HIV/AIDS are at higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications, including hospitalization and death
  • Obesity: Individuals with a body mass index (BMI) of 40+ have a higher rate of serious flu-related complications, including hospitalization

Certain racial and ethnic groups

Certain racial and ethnic groups are at increased risk for flu-related hospitalization, including Black, Hispanic or Latino, and American Indian or Alaska Native persons

 

 

Updated September 2021

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


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