It’s that time of year again. Back to school, the holidays, and the flu. The flu comes and goes, but for those who have certain health issues, the flu can linger and cause additional complications. So, are you at risk of these complications?

Influenza is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system. This includes the lungs, nose and throat. It is very contagious and can cause fevers, congestion, runny nose, headache, fatigue, chills, sore throat, cough and more.

The flu makes people miserable and can knock you down for a couple weeks. It can be very serious for young kids, elderly people, pregnant women and those with health conditions. This means that getting a flu shot is the first step to preventing yourself from becoming sick.

The flu can lead to bronchitis, pneumonia, hospital visits and sometimes death. This can be the case for those who are under 5 years of age, adults 65 and up, women who are pregnant and those who had babies 2 weeks prior, and Alaskan Natives and American Indians. Those with the following medical problems are also at high risk of further complications:

  • Heart disease
  • Asthma
  • Lung disease (such as COPD and CF)
  • Neurological disorders
  • Blood disorders
  • Kidney problems
  • Liver problems
  • Endocrine disorders
  • Immune system disorders or weakened immune disorders
  • Obesity

Although the flu vaccine does not protect against every strain, it does help build your immune system to fight against the flu. If you aren’t sure about if you should have a flu shot, contact your physician. They will be able to tell you when and where to get it. Depending on insurance, you can get the flu vaccine at the doctor’s office or a pharmacy. The Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children over 6 months of age should have the influenza vaccine. Allergy and Asthma Center of the Rockies recommends that all asthmatics must have an influenza vaccine. It is a killed virus and cannot make you ill. Other viruses are around and one might think they were ill from a past influenza shot, but that is not the case. Another way to prevent getting sick this flu season is to wash your hands, continue nasal washes, bleach anything that may have germs on them, and take any medications that your doctor has prescribed.