July 31, 2014
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Flu (Seasonal)

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The Flu and Medical Conditions

The flu and the weakened immune system

The flu and the weakened immune system

The immune system can be weakened by medical conditions, such as cancer and HIV/AIDS, and by certain medications, such as medications for organ transplants, cancer medications, and corticosteroids.

If you have a weakened immune system, you are at risk of flu complications because your immune system is not able to fight the flu and other infections that may occur as flu complications (such as pneumonia). The immune system is your body's defence against infections. When it is weakened, it is harder to fight the flu, which also tends to last longer in people with weakened immune systems.

People with weakened immune systems aren't the only ones who are at high risk for flu complications and severe infection. People with diabetes, asthma, heart disease, and many others with chronic medical conditions are also at risk. Are you at risk for flu complications?

There are a few steps you can take to protect yourself from the flu:

  • Wash your hands properly (at least 20 seconds with soap and water) and frequently.
  • Avoid crowds, and stay home if you think you have the flu.
  • Cough and sneeze into your arm (not your hand!).
  • Eat healthy foods and get regular exercise to keep your immune system strong.
  • Get vaccinated. Your doctor may recommend you get the yearly flu vaccine and the pneumococcal vaccine.
  • Manage your condition. Take your medication and follow the treatment plan as recommended by your health care provider.

If you do end up catching the flu, it's important to see your doctor as soon as you notice the first signs of flu symptoms. Don't wait until your symptoms worsen. People with weakened immune systems should see their doctor as soon as possible so that they can begin treatment. Early treatment with antiviral medication can help reduce the risk of flu complications. Talk to your doctor using the Seasonal Flu Doctor Discussion Guide.

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