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Flu and chronic medical conditions

People with certain long-term (chronic) medical conditions can be hit harder than others if they get the flu.

People with long-term conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or HIV/AIDS are more at risk of getting complications from flu.

These complications include bacterial pneumonia, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes.

Children with asthma or allergies may get complications such as sinus problems and ear infections.

For those in at-risk groups, it is important to help guard against flu in the first place by having the annual flu jab. Each year the flu vaccine is updated to protect against the latest strains of flu.

Who's at risk of problems associated with flu?

According to the Department of Health, individuals who are at high risk for problems associated with flu include those:

  • Over 65
  • Living in long-stay residential care homes or nursing homes
  • Who are carers or who care for elderly people
  • Over 6 months old with underlying medical conditions such as:
    • Chronic respiratory disease, including asthma
    • Chronic heart, renal and liver disease
    • Chronic neurological disease, including stroke and transient ischemic attack ( TIA)
    • Diabetes
  • People with impaired immunity due to disease or treatment
  • Individuals with multiple sclerosis and related conditions
  • Those with hereditary and degenerative diseases of the central nervous system
  • Pregnant women

Flu jabs

Every autumn, flu vaccine injections are offered free of charge by the NHS through GP surgeries to people with certain long term health condition, including:

  • Respiratory disease, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Heart disease, such as heart failure
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease, such as hepatitis
  • Neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease and motor neurone disease
  • Diabetes
  • Spleen conditions, including sickle cell disease, or people who have had their spleen removed
  • Weakened immune system from steroid medication, chemotherapy for cancer or conditions such as HIV and AIDS.
  • Carers for people in at-risk groups may also be advised to have the flu jab.

Annual flu vaccination given via a nasal spray is also recommended for children aged 2, 3 and 4 years old and for those children in school years 1, 2 and 3.

Pregnant women are also advised to have a flu jab.

Diabetes and flu

While getting the flu is dangerous for anyone, it's extra risky for those with diabetes. People with diabetes are six times more likely to be hospitalised with flu and/or pneumonia during flu epidemics.

COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and flu

Like asthma or any lung disease, COPD is worsened by the flu. If you have COPD, it's important to learn what you can do to avoid respiratory problems.

Heart disease and flu

Flu and lung infections pose greater dangers for people with heart disease. Lung infections prevent people from taking in oxygen as efficiently as they should. This makes the heart have to work harder to pump oxygen-rich blood through the body. This extra work can be dangerous for people with heart disease.

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