Flu Complications: Who is at Risk?

Most people who find themselves sick with flu will have a relatively mild illness and will recover in less than two weeks. However, some individuals have a higher risk of developing flu complications, which can result in hospitalization and sometimes fatality. In this article, we’ll discuss risk factors for flu complications and ways to prevent flu.

High Risk for Flu Complications

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified the following groups and conditions as high risk for flu complications:

  • Adults 65 years and older
  • Pregnant women
  • Young children
  • Children with neurologic conditions
  • Asthma
  • Heart disease or stroke
  • Diabetes
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Cancer

Additionally, the CDC has created a list of the factors that are known to increase an individual’s risk of serious flu complications. In general, individuals living with chronic conditions such as sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, or diabetes are at risk of flu complications, as are those with weakened immune systems due to disease or medications.

People 65 years and older are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu. The CDC estimates that between approximately 70-90% of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in this age group in recent years. Among adults hospitalized with flu during the 2018-2019 flu season, heart disease was among the most common chronic conditions; about half (47.2%) of adults hospitalized with flu during that time had heart disease. Studies have shown that flu is associated with an increase of heart attacks and stroke.

For children younger than 5 years old, and especially those younger than 2, flu can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia, dehydration, brain dysfunction, worsening of long-term medical problems, sinus problems, ear infections, and, in rare cases, death.

Reduce Severity with Flu Vaccination

Flu vaccination can reduce the occurrence of illnesses and more serious flu outcomes, especially for people 65 years and older. A 2017 study showed that getting the vaccine reduced deaths, ICU admissions, length of time in the ICU, and duration of hospitalization, with the greatest benefit shown among older adults.

Flu vaccines are updated each year to keep up with changing viruses, and the vaccine is most effective when received annually. In addition to the flu shot, the everyday preventative actions the CDC recommends can also help reduce the risk of contracting the flu: cover your cough, wash your hands frequently, and avoid others who are sick.

When to Get Emergency Medical Care

Individuals who are experiencing these warning signs should immediately seek medical care.

Emergency flu symptoms in children include:

  • Fast breathing, difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Dehydration (no urine for 8 hours, dry mouth, no tears when crying)
  • Seizures
  • Ribs pulling in with each breath
  • Not alert or interacting when awake
  • Fever above 104°F
  • Any fever in children younger than 12 weeks
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions
  • Fever or cough that improve, but then return or worsen

Emergency flu symptoms in adults include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Seizures
  • Severe weakness or unsteadiness
  • Persistent pain/pressure in chest or abdomen
  • Not urinating
  • Persistent dizziness or confusion
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions
  • Fever or cough that improve, but then return or worsen
  • Severe muscle pain

Note that these symptom lists aren’t all inclusive. If you or a loved one is experiencing any other symptoms that is severe or concerning, consult your medical provider.

Helping injured people is what we do at Schuerman Law, and we feel that it is important to share information to help you stay healthy and safe. Please share these flu safety tips with your network.

If you or a loved one has been injured, call our office today to schedule a free consultation. We’re on your side and we will help you get the compensation you deserve to offset the costs associated with a personal injury. John Schuerman is a compassionate advocate for injury victims. Schuerman Law has been working with personal injury claims for over 40 years. You can schedule a free consultation today by calling Schuerman Law at 1-800-274-0045.

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