What to Know About the Flu if Your Immunity is Compromised

An article from the UVM Health Network 2019 Flu Education series

Another flu season is right around the corner. A seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to protect against it and any potentially serious complications.

Immunity can take up to two weeks to develop after getting the vaccine, so getting your flu shot and helping to protect your friends, family and loved ones from seasonal influenza is everyone’s responsibility.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every year, with rare exceptions. But for some groups, seasonal influenza is particularly dangerous.

Higher Risks From Flu

If your immune system is compromised or weakened by conditions like HIV, AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s, sickle cell anemia, or you currently have cancer or had certain types of cancer (such as lymphoma or leukemia) in the past, you are at higher risk for complications from the flu. This is also true for organ transplant patients.

Injectable flu vaccines are approved for use in people with cancer and other health conditions, and have a long and established safety record. Randomized studies have also shown the flu vaccine can prevent influenza in HIV-infected adults. However, the nasal spray vaccine should never be used to vaccinate those with HIV or AIDS.

It is also important for family members and caregivers to get a seasonal flu vaccine, and take additional steps to help stop the spread of germs. Those include:

  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
  • Staying home from work, school and errands when you are sick
  • Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • Regularly washing your hands or using hand sanitizer

If you have a child with a condition that has left them immuno-compromised, you can get more guidance by reading the CDC’s Guide for Parents of Children or Adolescents with Chronic Health Conditions.

Be sure to contact your primary care provider to discuss which type of flu vaccination is right for you and learn more about how you can best protect yourself and those around you from seasonal influenza.