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This content is selected and controlled by WebMD's editorial staff and is brought to you by Walgreens.

You need to take special care to avoid the flu if you have any of these long-term medical conditions:

  • Asthma, emphysema, and other lung problems
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke and other neurologic and developmental conditions
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Kidney, liver, and blood problems
  • HIV or AIDS
  • Children under 19 who need to take aspirin for a long time
  • Any condition that weakens the immune system

The same is true if you’re:

  • Pregnant
  • Obese
  • 65 years old or older

Be sure to get a flu shot every year. It’s the best way to prevent the flu. Get the vaccine as soon as it’s available, ideally by October. That's about the time that flu season begins.

When Should I Call My Doctor?

If you come down with something you think might be the flu, call your doctor. You may be able to take medicine that will help you feel better sooner and prevent complications.

If you have trouble breathing, call 911.

Why Is the Flu Riskier for Me?

Your health condition makes you more likely than other people to have complications, like pneumonia, from the flu. Without medical care, these problems can be life-threatening.

For instance, if you have diabetes, your immune system may be weaker than normal. If you have heart disease, the flu can make your heart work harder, which is risky.

When Does Flu Season Start?

It can begin as early as September and last as late as May.

Your best bet is to get the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available each fall. But you can still get vaccinated in January or later. The flu shot starts to work about 2 weeks after your vaccination.

Where Can I Get a Flu Shot?

You have many options, including your doctor’s office, local health clinics, and many supermarkets and drugstores.

The American Lung Association’s web site offers an online flu vaccine clinic locator. You enter your ZIP code and get information about clinics scheduled in your area.

Can I Take the Vaccine Nasal Spray Instead?

No. Unlike the flu shot, the nasal flu vaccine, called FluMist, contains live, weakened viruses. You shouldn’t take it if you’re pregnant or have a long-term health condition. This form of the vaccine is only approved for healthy people ages 2-49.

WebMD Medical Reference

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