People at High Risk of Developing Flu–Related Complications
Most people who get the flu will have mild illness, will not need medical care or antiviral drugs, and will recover in less than two weeks. Some people, however, are more likely to get flu complications that can result in hospitalization and sometimes death. Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections are examples of flu-related complications. The flu also can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure may experience a worsening of this condition triggered by flu. List below are the groups of people who are more likely to get serious flu-related complications if they get sick with influenza.
People at High Risk for Developing Flu-Related Complications
- Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
- Adults 65 years of age and older
- Pregnant women (and women up to two weeks postpartum)
- Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- Also, American Indians and Alaskan Natives [1.1 MB, 2 pages] seem to be at higher risk of flu complications
- Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions [including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy (seizure disorders), stroke, intellectual disability (mental retardation), moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injury].
- Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis)
- Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)
- Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)
- Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes mellitus)
- Kidney disorders
- Liver disorders
- Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders)
- Weakened immune system due to disease or medication (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or cancer, or those on chronic steroids)
- People younger than 19 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
- People with extreme obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or more) Calculate your Body Mass Index or BMI
Note: There is no recommendation for pregnant women or people with pre-existing medical conditions to get special permission or written consent from their doctor or health care professional for influenza vaccination if they get vaccinated at a worksite clinic, pharmacy or other location outside of their physician’s office. For more information, visit Misconceptions about Seasonal Flu and Flu Vaccines.
Materials are also available for:
Flu Information for Parents with Young Children
Advice for parents who want to keep their children healthy.
Influenza Vaccination Information for Health Care Workers
Information on the importance of influenza vaccination for people who work in health care.
Information for Health Professionals
Information about vaccination, infection control, prevention, treatment, and diagnosis of seasonal influenza for public health and health care professionals.
Information for Schools & Childcare Providers
Information on preventing the flu, common questions and answers, and poster materials for schools.
Information for Businesses & Employers
Information and tools on preventing the flu, workplace specific guidelines, and printable materials.
Legal Professionals and Policymakers
Legal materials related to influenza.
Flu Information for Travelers
Advice for actions to take before, during, and after trips to protect yourself from influenza.
- Page last reviewed: October 5, 2017
- Page last updated: August 25, 2016
- Content source:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD)
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs