The flu is a contagious infection caused by the influenza virus. It affects your nose, throat, and lungs. Mild to severe symptoms include:
- Runny or Stuffy Nose
- Sore Throat
- Body Aches
Flu complications can lead to many other secondary illnesses, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, and it can be fatal if left untreated. Certain groups of people are at a higher risk for these complications. These groups include pregnant women, young children, the elderly, and people with certain health conditions.
Pregnant WomenIf you are pregnant, you are more prone to developing serious complications from the flu due to changes that occur during pregnancy affecting your immune system, heart, and lungs. There is also a chance that your unborn child will be negatively affected in their development or could be born prematurely.
Young ChildrenChildren under the age of five require medical care for the flu, because their immune systems are not fully developed, making them more prone to serious complications. Severe complications are most common for children under age two or young children with chronic health problems.
ElderlyPeople who are age 65 years old or older are more susceptible to developing serious complications from the flu, because as you age, your immune system becomes weaker. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), an estimated 71% to 85% of flu-related deaths are in this group.
Certain Health ConditionsThe chronic medical conditions that put you at higher risk are:
- Chronic Lung Disease
- Blood Disorders
- Heart Disease
- Immune System Weakened from Medication
- Liver Disorders
- Kidney Disorders
- Metabolic Disorders
- Extreme Obesity, a BMI of 40 or Greater
- Under age 19 and on Aspirin Therapy
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of CureTake the following preventative measures to avoid contracting the flu or developing serious complications from it:
- Get a Flu Vaccine – Every flu season is different, which is why you need to get a vaccination every year, preferably in September, before flu season begins in October. You can easily contract the flu and spread it to others, even if you are in good health. Flu vaccines work by creating antibodies in your body to protect you from each season’s most prevalent strains of the flu. There are several types of vaccines available. These include the standard vaccine, a higher dose vaccine for the elderly, and an egg-free vaccine for those allergic to eggs. Everyone over the age of 6 months should be vaccinated. Ask your doctor which vaccine is right for you.
- Take Preventative Measures – Good health habits can prevent the flu and help stop the spread of germs. These include: avoiding close contact with those who are sick, staying home when you are sick, covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, washing your hands often, avoiding touching your mouth, nose, or eyes, and clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. It is also advisable to get plenty of sleep, drink plenty of fluids, eat a balanced diet, manage your stress, and be physically active.
- Take Antiviral Drugs if your Doctor Prescribes Them – These medications are used to treat the flu and available by prescription only. They come in tablets, liquid, an inhaled powder, or IV form.