Anyone can get the flu (even healthy people), and serious problems from influenza can happen at any age. People age 65 years and older, people of any age with chronic medical conditions, and very young children are more likely to get complications from influenza. Most people who get influenza will recover in one to two weeks, but some people will develop life-threatening complications (such as pneumonia) as a result of the flu.
Each flu season is unique, but it is estimated that, on average, approximately 5% to 20% of U.S. residents get the flu, and more than 200,000 persons are hospitalized for flu-related complications each year. About 36,000 Americans die on average per year from the complications of flu.
Pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections are three examples of complications from flu. The flu can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure may have worsening of this condition that is triggered by the flu.
People at high risk for complications from the flu:
•People 65 years and older;
•People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that house those with long-term illnesses;
•Adults and children 6 months and older with chronic heart or lung conditions, including asthma;
•Adults and children 6 months and older who needed regular medical care or were in a hospital during the previous year because of a metabolic disease (e.g., diabetes), chronic kidney disease, or weakened immune system (including immune system problems caused by medicines or by infection with human immunodeficiency virus [HIV/AIDS]);
•Children 6 months to 18 years of age who are on long-term aspirin therapy. (Children given aspirin while they have influenza are at risk of Reye syndrome.);
•Women who will be pregnant during the influenza season;
•All children 6 to 23 months of age;
•People with any condition that can compromise respiratory function or the handling of respiratory secretions (i.e., a condition that makes it hard to breathe or swallow, such as brain injury or disease, spinal cord injuries, seizure disorders, or other nerve or muscle disorders).