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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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What Puts You at Risk for the Flu?

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Being a Kid

Children under 2 years old are at high risk for flu-related problems.

A youngster’s growing immune system is always fighting off new viruses and bacteria. It's normal for a tot to get as many as six to eight colds a year, along with ear and sinus infections, bronchitis, and croup.

A kid who’s often sick or who has a weak immune system is more likely to catch the flu and have complications with it.

How can you protect your child?

  • Watch what he puts in his mouth.
  • Wash teething rings, pacifiers, and other "mouth" toys often with soap and water, then dry them.
  • Wash his hands with soap and water often.
  • Replace his toothbrush frequently, and keep it apart from other family members' brushes.

If you have a newborn, it's important to protect him from people who have flu symptoms. Ask your day care about its "sick child" policy. Can parents drop off kids who have fever or other symptoms?

Babies under 6 months can’t get flu shots. That means parents, family members, and caregivers should get vaccinated to protect little ones from the flu.

Being a Senior

As you age, your immune system weakens, and the flu can take more of a toll on you. Seniors also have a higher risk for getting other problems along with the flu.

Most people who wind up in the hospital or die from the flu are 65 or older. Folks in this age group are also be more likely to have a long-term illness like heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease that make them more likely to get the flu.

A high-dose vaccine called Fluzone is recommended for those 65 and older. It has four times as much active ingredient as a regular flu shot. That means it can do a better job of getting an older immune system up and running.

Living in a Retirement Center

People who live in crowded places are more likely to get the flu. If you or a loved one is over 65, talk to a doctor about a flu shot plus a pneumococcal vaccine. It can protect you from more than 20 types of bacteria that cause serious diseases like meningitis, pneumonia, and blood infections.

If you’re a healthy adult over 65, you should get two different pneumococcal vaccines. The timing and sequence will vary.

Doctors may suggest this vaccine for some younger adults, particularly those with a higher risk for infections because of liver or heart disease, COPD, kidney failure, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic illnesses.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on October 27, 2015
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