The flu is a serious illness causing hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations each year and resulting in tens of thousands of deaths. While there is a continued focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to protect yourself against seasonal influenza as well. There is no way of knowing how rough this year’s flu season will be, however there are a few risk factors that might make you or your loved ones more susceptible to contracting the flu. Here are a few risk factors to keep in mind as we enter flu season.
- Being 65 or older
Adults age 65 and older make up a large portion of flu hospitalizations and deaths each year. In fact, about 70-percent of hospitalizations occur within the 65 and older population.
- You have heart disease or have suffered a stroke
Recent research suggests that there may be a link between the flu and poor heart health. Studies have shown that individuals who have struggled with heart health in the past are at an increased risk of heart complications after contracting the flu.
- You have a chronic condition or a weakened immune system
Certain chronic conditions like liver disease, kidney disease, blood disorders, metabolic disorders or certain neurological conditions can increase the likelihood of complications related to influenza. The results can be an exceptionally high fever or even a secondary condition like pneumonia.
- You are obese
Those with a body mass index greater than 40 (which is considered obese) are at increased risk of complications related to influenza. In addition to an increased risk of complications, obese individuals tend to carry the flu virus for longer than non-obese people.
- You have diabetes
Diabetes can weaken your immune system which makes it harder for your body to fight off viruses like the flu. The flu virus itself has a tendency to skew blood sugar levels as well, which can cause patients to suffer from dehydration or have complications related to their kidneys.
What You Can Do
There are a few things that can be done to help protect yourself from the flu. For one, talk to your doctor about receiving the flu vaccine. It may also be beneficial to receive the pneumonia vaccine if you are at increased risk. In addition, most precautions that are being made to protect against COVID-19 can also help protect you from getting the flu. Washing your hands regularly, staying socially distant and wearing a face covering can all protect against the flu as well. If you feel flu-like symptoms coming on, contact your doctor immediately to get professional medical advice.