The Flu – More Serious for Some People Than Others
Are you at higher risk of complications from the flu? The flu has been around for thousands of years, but science really only started to understand it in the 1930s. After many years of research, the science on influenza is very strong. Even so, opinions about the virus are wildly different, including the belief that the flu is just a minor inconvenience. The truth is, the flu can be quite serious, particularly for certain high-risk groups. Last year in Canada, there were over 12,000 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths resulting from the flu.
Groups at Risk
Everyone can get the flu, including healthy adults. Some of the symptoms can cause you to miss out on day–to-day activities, and productivity can fall for 2-3 weeks.
Vaccination to prevent the flu is especially important for people at higher risk of flu-related complications. This includes people in the following categories:
- People over 65 years of age or under 5 years old
- Pregnant women
- Residents of long-term care facilities
- People with weakened immune systems or medical conditions, such as asthma, COPD, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, neurological conditions and endocrine diseases, such as diabetes.
Complications and What to Do About Them
Depending on the individual, there are many ways the flu can lead to health complications. People may develop sinusitis (sinus infections), bronchitis, ear infections or other complications.
“Flu can be extremely serious in older people, leading to hospitalization and in some cases long-term disability….People 65 and older should seek medical care early when they develop flu symptoms,” says Dr. Dan Jernigan, director of CDC's Influenza Division.
Most people with the flu get better within two weeks. It is recommended to stay at home, rest, drink plenty of water, treat symptoms and limit contact with loved ones during the time you are sick. People at risk of complications related to the flu or presenting with more severe symptoms could get an antiviral prescribed, should their doctor recommend it.
We All Need to Do Our Part
The best treatment is prevention. Being careful to not get the flu in the first place helps protect those around us who are at higher risk. Washing our hands regularly and disinfecting surfaces during flu season makes a difference.
The strongest defense is getting vaccinated against the flu every year.
If you do get sick, a pharmacist can help you determine if it’s a cold or the flu, and recommend a treatment plan depending on your condition. Visit your local pharmacy for more details.