Every year, about 8% of people in the U.S. get the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although the flu can make anyone sick regardless of their age or health, some people are more at risk of serious flu complications.
Getting the seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu and reduce the risk of serious complications. If possible, the CDC recommends getting vaccinated in September or October for optimal coverage during flu season.
Here’s what else you need to know about who’s most at risk from the flu and how to protect them.
Because their immune system isn’t fully developed, children under age 5 face a higher risk of serious flu complications. To protect them, follow these steps.
Your immune system changes during pregnancy. Getting a fever during pregnancy can harm a developing baby. It’s been linked to neural tube defects and other adverse outcomes. To protect yourself and your unborn baby from the flu during pregnancy:
As you get older, your immune system doesn’t work as well as it used to, so it has a harder time fighting off the flu.
An estimated 70% to 85% of seasonal flu-related deaths occur in people age 65 and older, according to the CDC.
If you’re 65 or older, the CDC recommends that you get a high-dose flu vaccine or an adjuvanted flu vaccine. Ask your pharmacist which flu vaccine they recommend for you.
If you have a chronic medical condition — even if you’re younger than 65 — getting the flu can make these conditions worse. Some of the most common conditions made worse by the flu include:
Along with getting a seasonal flu vaccine, the CDC recommends that you do the following to protect yourself and those around you:
Get tested ASAP. Your local pharmacy or doctor can help with the testing. There are several prescription medications available to treat higher-risk people with the flu, but you need to start them within 48 hours of when the symptoms appear.
Good Neighbor Pharmacy Script, September 2023