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How the Flu Affects You


Updated August 24, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

The flu is a serious illness for anyone, but it has the potential to cause more serious complications for certain groups of people. People at high risk for the flu should be extra vigilant about getting the seasonal flu vaccine and contacting their health care providers as soon as they notice flu symptoms. Prevention and early treatment are key to cutting down the chances of serious complications.

How the Flu Affects Babies and Young Children

Young children - especially those under the age of 2 - are at high risk for the flu and developing serious complications. Narrow airways and immature immune systems are a few of the things that make the flu such a serious illness for young kids. Find out more about what you can do to protect your children from the flu.

How the Flu Affects Pregnant Women

Being pregnant is hard. You are often uncomfortable and you have to be extra aware of everything you put in your body. To make matters more difficult, pregnant women often get sick more often than their non-pregnant counterparts. If you happen to get the flu while you are pregnant, you have to be concerned not only about how it will affect you, but also about how it will affect your unborn child.

How the Flu Affects the Elderly

How's this for a sobering fact: 90% of flu deaths occur in people over the age of 65. The older we get, the less able we are to combat the effects of illnesses such as the flu. Older adults often develop serious complications from the flu such as pneumonia, which can be very difficult to recover from. There are several things older adults can do to prevent the flu that are different than what younger people need to do.

How the Flu Affects People With Asthma

Asthma makes it more difficult to breathe and because the flu is primarily a respiratory illness, it can have serious implications for people who have asthma. Getting your flu vaccine, always having your asthma medication and paying close attention to your symptoms are all important steps in avoiding or managing the flu is you have asthma.

How the Flu Affects People With Heart Disease

If you have heart disease, you need to be aware of how the flu can affect you. Many over the counter cold and flu medications are not safe for people with heart disease and you should never take a new medication (over the counter or not) without first discussing it with your doctor. Be sure you have at least a two week supply of your heart medication on hand so you aren't forced to go to the pharmacy for a refill if you get sick. If you develop flu-like symptoms, contact your health care provider right away so he can determine the right course of treatment for you.

How the Flu Affects People With Diabetes

Diabetics always have to be mindful of their blood sugar levels and how their diet will affect them. If you get the flu - or any other illness - when you have diabetes, it can affect your blood sugar levels and your appetite. Feeling horrible also makes it more difficult to monitor those things when all you want to do is lay in bed and sleep. But keeping close track of your blood glucose is even more important when you are sick. If you can't do it yourself, you need to have someone around you who can. If you have diabetes, have a plan in place before you get sick so that you are prepared.

Do You Have the Flu?

If you aren't sure you have the flu - or even if you are sure you do - this piece will tell you what to expect from it. From how it starts to what to do when you get it, we cover it all. Even if you aren't included in one of the high risk groups above, this will give your information about how the flu affects even the healthiest among us.
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