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How can chronic illness affect my risk of complications from the flu?

Chronic diseases such as diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, or kidney problems, increase your risk of getting influenza and of developing complications. Illnesses that require you to be on medications that suppress the immune system also increase your risk, as do diseases that affect the immune system such as HIV. Asthma, some blood disorders like sickle cell disease, some neurological or metabolic disorders, and morbid obesity also put you at higher risk of complications.

Chronic illness can very significantly affect the risk of complications from the flu. People with chronic illnesses usually have immune function deficiencies or hyperactivity. The flu or any other infection may exacerbate chronic illnesses and cause acute problems. The best way to prevent the probelms from developing is to follow a clean, organic diet, get 8-10 hours sleep a night, exercise regularly, learn to deal with stress, and take supplements to support your immune function and decrease inflammation, which is the most common problem in patients with chronic illnesses. Taking the flu vaccine may also be of help in some individuals and the decision must be made in conversation with a knowledgeable and caring physician who represents your particular needs and philosophy of health.

Stacy Wiegman, PharmD
Pharmacy Specialist
If you are living with a chronic illness, you may be more vulnerable to complications from the flu such as pneumonia and bronchitis. In some people with chronic illness, the flu can worsen the chronic disease or even develop into a life-threatening condition. Chronic illnesses that leave you more vulnerable to the flu include:
  • asthma
  • diabetes
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • heart disease
  • immune deficiencies
If you are living with a chronic health condition and develop the flu, contact your doctor immediately.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.