Insights on Influenza Blog
Mission: To save lives and reduce hospitalizations by protecting children, families, and communities against influenza.

People With Certain Health Conditions

Individuals living with certain health conditions, even when these conditions are well-controlled, are at greater risk of flu complications, including hospitalization, catastrophic disability, and even death.

Certain health conditions can put you at greater risk of flu complications.

Six in ten adults in the U.S. have a chronic disease and four in ten adults have two or more.1 However, people of all ages that suffer from the following conditions are at increased risk of flu-related complications:2

  • asthma
  • neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions 
  • chronic lung disease (COPD, cystic fibrosis)
  • heart disease (congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure, and coronary artery disease)
  • chronic kidney disease
  • sickle cell disease
  • diabetes
  • people younger than 19 years old on long-term aspirin therapy
  • people with extreme obesity (BMI of 40 or more)
  • people receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer
  • leukemia
  • inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders
  • people with chronic conditions requiring chronic corticosteroids or other drugs that suppress the immune system
Nathaniel Gorenstein, influenza and asthma

On November 19, 2009, 4-year-old Nate started coughing. As a result his asthma flared up and quickly grew worse.

Read Nate's Story

Danger of Flu in Those With Certain Health Conditions

People with chronic health conditions are at increased risk of flu and associated complications. If you have one of these conditions, ask your doctor which flu vaccine is right for you.

Some of the more common conditions that can elevate risk of flu include:



34+ million adults in the U.S. are diagnosed with diabetes3, which puts them at high risk of the following flu-related complications:

  • 6x increased risk of hospitalization4
  • increased risk of heart attack or stroke5
  • worsening of diabetic conditions (poor glycemic control and acidosis) due to lack of appetite and difficulty controlling blood sugar. Reduced appetite can cause blood sugar levels to fall.5
  • increased risk of renal and cardiovascular disease issues6
  • 3x higher risk of death due to flu infection7
Diabetes and Influenza Risks



Approximately half of Americans have some form of heart disease8, which puts them at high risk of the following flu-related complications: 

  • 10x increased risk of heart attack within 1-3 days of flu infection9
  • inflammation in the body that leads to an increased risk of heart attack weeks after acute flu infection10
  • stroke11

Approximately 12% of patients hospitalized with flu experience sudden, serious heart complications12. On average, as many as 1 in 5 heart failure hospitalizations appear to be triggered by the flu during the months when influenza viruses are circulating widely13.


Heart Disease and Influenza Risks



40+ million people have asthma or COPD, which increases their risk of serious flu-related complications.14 Since these people already have sensitive airways, inflammation caused by flu can make their symptoms worse. They could experience:

  • asthma attacks or a worsening of their lung disease15
  • progressive loss of lung function15
  • complications such as pneumonia and other respiratory diseases15
Lung Disease and Influenza Risks

Benefits of Flu Vaccination in Those with Chronic Health Conditions

  • Flu vaccination can reduce hospital admissions by 79% for people with diabetes16 
  • Flu vaccination can reduce hospital admissions by 38% for people with COPD17
  • Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of heart attack by 15 – 45% for people with heart disease. Flu vaccination can be equally or even more effective at preventing heart attacks than other behavioral modifications or medications such as statins (19-30%), antihypertensive therapy (17-25%), and smoking cessation (32-43%)18


People with conditions such as lung disease, heart disease (except isolated hypertension), kidney disease (like diabetes), kidney or liver disorders, neurologic/neuromuscular, or metabolic disorders should not receive the nasal spray flu vaccine (LAIV). Ask your doctor which flu vaccine is right for you.

Caroline Miller had mild asthma prior to being in a drug-induced coma, intubated and on a ventilator for 2 weeks with flu.

Read Caroline's Story

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Page last reviewed: September 2021. 

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