The flu (influenza) is a contagious respiratory (breathing) infection that can affect everyone.
Some people believe the flu is the same as a bad cold, but it is not. The flu is a strong virus that can cause illness, hospitalization and sometimes even death.
At Banner Health, we want to help you lower your risk during flu season. Read on to understand your potential risk for serious flu symptoms, possible complications from the flu and how to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Adults age 65 and over have weaker immune systems, meaning they can catch the flu easier and have stronger flu symptoms. They are also more likely to have extra complications from the flu.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 70%-85% of seasonal flu deaths and 50%-70% of flu-related hospitalizations are in people 65 and older.
Children under 5 years old are at higher risk for the flu because their immune systems are still growing. If they get the flu, they might experience complications like ear infections and dehydration.
Babies younger than 6 months are at even higher risk for the flu because they are too young to be vaccinated. However, if their mother got a flu shot during pregnancy, the baby is better protected against the flu during these first few months.
During pregnancy, your immune system changes to help protect the growing baby. These changes can make pregnant people have stronger flu symptoms. The flu virus may also be risky for the unborn child.
Getting a flu shot during pregnancy protects both the pregnant person and their baby during the first few months of life.
People living with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease and weakened immune systems are more vulnerable to flu problems. The virus can make their health conditions worse and also lead to serious breathing problems.
The flu is very contagious and can be harmful to older adults with weaker immune systems. Living in close quarters (such as in nursing homes) allows the flu virus to spread even faster.
The flu can lead to more serious complications, especially in people at high risk. Some of these complications include:
Getting your flu shot is very important to protect yourself and others from the flu virus.
The flu vaccine helps you fight the flu virus, protecting you, your loved ones and your community. It is recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months, especially those in high-risk groups.
If you are in a high-risk group (see above), it is very important to contact your health care provider as soon as you think you may have the flu.
Your provider may prescribe antiviral medicine that can help you with the flu. Taking this medicine can help you have a milder case of the flu and avoid serious problems.
It is important to drink plenty of water every day. This is especially true if you think you have the flu. Drink extra fluids (like clear liquids and broth) to prevent dehydration.
Contact your health care provider immediately if your flu symptoms don’t get better, start to get worse or if it’s hard to take care of yourself at home.
If you or a loved one think you’re having a flu emergency, such as difficulty breathing or unresponsiveness , call 911 or go to your closest hospital’s emergency department immediately.
In addition to getting your flu shot every year, you can take easy steps to slow down the spread of the flu this season.