Are you at high risk for flu?

Woman blowing nose with the flu

The United States experiences epidemics of flu each year, with an average of 3 million illnesses and tens of thousands of deaths. Some people think the flu isn't serious, but millions are at high risk for potentially life-threatening complications.

Flu is a serious disease that causes illness, hospitalizations, and deaths every year, even among otherwise healthy people.

Complications of flu can include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Ear infections
  • Sinus infections
  • Dehydration (from loss of body fluids)
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes

Annual flu-related deaths in the United States

The CDC reports that since 2010, there are between 12,000 and 61,000 flu-related deaths per year, and 140,000 to 810,000 flu-related hospitalizations every year.

Risk factors for flu-related complications from flu disease


The CDC estimates that about 90 percent of flu-related deaths occur in adults 65 years and older. Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are also at higher risk.

Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old, are at higher risk of complications from flu illness.


Pregnant people (and people up to two weeks postpartum) are at higher risk for flu-related complications.

Medical conditions

Some medical conditions put people at greater risk for developing flu complications. These include:

  • Asthma
  • Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions [including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve and muscle such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy (seizure disorders), stroke, intellectual disability, moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy or spinal cord injury]
  • Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis)
  • Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)
  • Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)
  • Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes mellitus)
  • Kidney disorders
  • Liver disorders
  • Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders)
  • Weakened immune system due to disease or medication (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or cancer, or those on chronic steroids)
  • People younger than 19 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
  • People with extreme obesity (body mass index of 40 or more)

The best defense against flu is getting yourself and everyone in your family over the age of 6 months vaccinated every year. Find a flu vaccination provider near you.