Flu and Chronic Medical Conditions
What about HIV/AIDS and flu?
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) kills or damages cells in the body's immune system. It gradually destroys the body's ability to fight infections like the flu and the common cold. About 1.1 million people are infected with HIV in the U.S., according to the CDC. People with HIV are more likely to get complications from the flu, such as pneumonia. They are also at higher risk of dying from the flu.
For in-depth information, see WebMD's HIV/AIDS and Flu.
Are elderly adults at higher risk for flu complications?
More than 90% of flu-related deaths occur among the elderly (adults more than 65 years of age) In addition, many older adults suffer with illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and COPD, which also increase the chances of flu complications.
For in-depth information, see WebMD's Flu in Older Adults.
What about pregnant women and flu complications?
Pregnancy can increase the risk of flu complications. That's why it's important to understand flu symptoms and contact your physician immediately to avoid potentially serious flu complications. In addition, pregnant women and those who who intend to become pregnant during flu season are urged to get a flu shot.
For in-depth information, see WebMD's Pregnancy and Flu.
How can you prevent the flu when you have a chronic medical condition?
Getting a flu shot is the best way to prevent the flu. The flu vaccine is highly recommended for healthy individuals who want to avoid flu and for those people who are in high risk groups. Only infants younger than 6 months should not get a flu shot.
For in-depth information, see WebMD's Flu Shot: Influenza Vaccine and Side Effects.
If you have a chronic medical condition, how do you treat the flu?
Antiviral drugs are available by prescription to treat the flu. In some cases, antiviral drugs can be used to prevent infection with flu. These drugs work by blocking the replication of the flu virus, preventing its spread. Recommended antiviral drugs include:
- Relenza (zanamivir)
- Tamiflu (oseltamivir)
People who are at high risk of serious complications from the flu may benefit most from antiviral medications. This includes people with chronic medical conditions. Call your doctor if you have symptoms of the flu or have been exposed to the flu if you are in one of the high risk groups for complications. You may also take some over-the-counter cold and flu medicines, but always check with your doctor or pharmacist first. You should make sure the medicine won't interfere with other medications prescribed for your condition. For example, if you have heart disease, you need to avoid decongestants. If you have COPD, you may need to avoid aspirin, antihistamines, and decongestants.