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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

High-risk groups

Most people who get the flu will have only mild illness and will not need medical care. However, some people are more likely to get flu complications, and they should talk to a healthcare provider about whether they need to be examined and treated if they get sick with flu-like symptoms this season. Those groups are:

  • Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
  • People 65 and older
  • Pregnant women 
  • People who have:
    • Cancer 
    • Blood disorders  (including sickle cell disease)
    • Chronic lung disease  [including asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)]
    • Diabetes
    • Heart disease 
    • Kidney disorders
    • Liver disorders
    • Neurological disorders (including nervous system, brain or spinal cord)
    • Neuromuscular disorders (including muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis)
    • Weakened immune systems  (including people with AIDS)

Organ transplant recipients are also at higher risk and should follow precautions and guidelines.

Anyone, whether they are healthy or not, can develop severe illness from the flu. Anyone concerned about symptoms, discomfort or illness should consult a healthcare provider.

Additionally, there are emergency warning signs. Anyone with these symptoms should get medical care immediately.

Emergency Warning Signs

In children, emergency warning signs that require urgent medical care include

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish or gray skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Not waking up or interacting normally
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

In adults, emergency warnings signs that require urgent medical care include

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

Vaccination Priority

As of today, we anticipate having enough flu vaccine to go around. Should supplies become limited, we may institute a vaccine priority list.


Last UpdateAugust 8, 2011