Influenza: Risk factors and Complications

Fact Checked

Influenza refers to a viral infection that targets the upper respiratory system which includes the nose, throat and lungs.

Risk factors

The following factors increase the risk of developing flu and its major symptoms:sneezing

  • Age. Often young children and people over the age of 65 are more likely to suffer from seasonal flu than the age groups in between. However, the H1N1 pandemic in 2009 mostly struck young adults and teenagers.
  • Living conditions. People living in areas accommodated by many other people such as military camps, barracks, and nursing homes are more likely to be infected due to close contact with people. Similarly, young children are also susceptible to the infection as they go to school and day care centers.
  • Occupation. Nurses, child care and health care workers come in contact with infected people suffering from influenza. Influenza can spread by breathing in contaminated air or touching contaminated objects.
  • Pregnancy. Pregnant women develop flu and influenza complications usually in the second and third trimesters.
  • Chronic illnesses. These include diabetes, asthma and heart problems. People suffering from chronic illnesses are more likely to develop influenza complications.
  • Suppressed immune system. Chemotherapy, corticosteroids, anti-rejection drugs and HIV/AIDS can greatly suppress your immune system and make you more susceptible to suffer from infections. A weakened immune system also makes you more prone to catch the influenza virus and suffer from its complications.


For healthy and young people, influenza virus does not produce major complications regardless of the fact that the sufferer may consider the condition to be a nuisance, the symptoms disappear on their own. However, high risk groups such as young children, older adults and people with weak immune systems are likely to suffer from major complications that may leave long lasting effects. Some of the most common complications include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Sinus infections
  • Bronchitis
  • Ear infections

Of all complications, pneumonia seems to be the most recurrent complication in the world’s population. Moreover, it is also the most serious complication out of them all. For older people and people suffering from chronic illness, pneumonia might actually turn into a deadly complication. It is recommended that you get vaccinated for influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia to provide yourself with protection from both conditions.

Learn More

To learn about more serious medical emergencies and complications such as shock, breathing emergencies, anaphylaxis and asthma enrol in workplace approved first aid and CPR training with a provider near you.

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