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Why Flu Is Riskier for Some People

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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
  • Children under 19 who need to take aspirin for a long time
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Any condition that weakens the immune system

The same is true if you are:

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  • Pregnant
  • Obese (which means your BMI is 30 or higher)
  • 65 years old or older

Be sure to get a flu shot every year. It’s the single-best way to prevent flu.Get the vaccine as soon as it’s available, ideally by October, which is around the same 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, such as 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,flu and lung infections make your heart work harder, which is risky.

When Does Flu Season Start?

Flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as May. 

It is best 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 becomes effective about two 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.

You can check American Lung Association’s web site for its 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 weakened live viruses. You should not take it if you are pregnant or have a long-term health condition. This form of the vaccine is approved for use only among healthy people ages 2-49.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on June 27, 2015
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