Flu + Lung Disease

Battling the flu can be a tall order for already weakened lungs. A flu shot can help prevent major problems, or minimize the harsh damage the flu can do to your lungs.
In recent seasons, 70–85% of all flu-related hospitalizations occurred in adults 65 years of age and older.
When Brian was diagnosed with COPD and Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, he began losing function in his lungs. That meant losing the ability to keep up with his wife, kids and grandkids the way he wanted to. In 2015, an infection hospitalized him and put him in need of a double lung transplant. Now he takes every precaution to remain healthy, like washing his hands, covering his mouth and always getting his flu shot.
Three and a half years after my surgery, I’m now able to enjoy the activities I love. I never want complications from a flu-like illness to take that away from me again.
Brian, age 56, double lung transplant recipient
Fishing, hunting and woodworking remained big parts of Jim’s life following his COPD diagnosis, but everything changed when he came down with the flu. He was homebound for five weeks, didn’t eat because he couldn’t breathe, became extremely weak and lost 35 pounds. He always had trouble breathing, but now he can’t do much without running out of air. This is why Jim encourages people to get their flu shot and says it’s worth the time and effort.
I was pretty active, even though I had COPD. Now I’m on oxygen 24/7.
Jim, age 66, living with lung disease
Jean participates in a number of COPD support groups, which has opened her eyes to what the flu can do to people with this serious lung condition, and the sad reality that some of them never get back to where they were before their illness. She's had a flu shot every year since her own diagnosis of COPD in 2000, so she can keep traveling, volunteering, and spending time with her first great-granddaughter.
I am far more aware of how any respiratory disease can affect me, and how it can lead to a lot of other things — none of which I want. I’ve become far more respectful of how the flu can really take you out.
Jean, age 74, living with lung disease
A lung cancer diagnosis 10 years ago hasn’t stopped Jane from teaching elementary school, working out and traveling. But the flu did, bringing everything to a halt for two weeks the year she skipped her flu shot, and reminding her just how important the vaccine can be. Now that she understands the risks, she hasn’t missed one since, for her own sake and for others.
When you go out in public — work, school or activities — you never know if the person sitting next to you might be sick. Especially for people who are immunocompromised like me, that spread of disease can really hurt us.
Jane, age 59, living with lung disease
Debbie (and everyone around her) gets a flu shot every year, ever since the flu exacerbated her sarcoidosis and left her hospitalized for a week. She’s on oxygen full time now, and she does everything she can to help protect herself, so she can continue her career, teaching Sunday school, and helping take care of her mom — who took care of her when she was sick.
The flu can lead to pneumonia and that can wipe you out. Why not take something that you know can help you prevent that from happening?
Debbie, age 55, living with lung disease

Flu + Heart Disease

For people with heart disease, the flu can make things deadly. A study of 1,227 adults aged 40+ showed a ten times greater risk of a first heart attack within three days following a flu infection. A separate study of 762 adults aged 40+ showed and eight times increase in likelihood of first stroke.
Mike and his wife, Joann, are always planning their next weekend outing to hunt down the perfect antique for their collection. But living with heart disease means Mike is at greater risk of suffering severe complications caused by the flu, or possibly even dying. So every year since his quadruple bypass, Mike makes sure he and his wife both get their flu shot to help stay protected. It’s a small step he can take to make sure he’s there for the next big score.
I feel protected by getting my flu shot every year.
Mike, age 62, heart disease and type 2 diabetes
While watching her grandson’s football game, Gayle suffered a heart attack and had to be rushed to the hospital. Later that evening, a second heart attack struck. To complicate matters further, Gayle was later diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She gets her flu shot each year so she can focus on staying healthy, traveling and spending weekends with her daughter Alice.
I’ve been getting the flu shot every year since 1972, and now it’s more important than ever.
Gayle, age 72, living with heart disease
Kathy doesn't want to slow down for anything, and that includes the flu. Between helping plan her two son’s weddings this year and spending time skiing in Montana, Kathy makes staying healthy a top priority, so she can continue doing the things she loves with the people she loves. This responsibility became even more important when Kathy went into cardiac arrest following a fitness class in 2012. She knows that the flu could undo years of recovery and physical therapy, and potentially put her life in danger again.
Of all the things I do to help prevent my heart disease from interfering with my life, getting my annual flu shot is probably the easiest.
Kathy, age 55, living with heart disease

Flu + Diabetes

For many living with diabetes, managing their condition is difficult enough. Even when well managed, diabetes and the flu can produce dangerous complications, hospitalizations and sometimes death. The flu shot is the best way to help protect yourself from the flu.
In the 2019-2020 flu season, influenza caused up to 62,000 flu-related deaths in the United States.
For people living with asthma and diabetes, the flu can be particularly dangerous — as Lisa knows all too well. Every year, Lisa gets her flu shot. But two years ago she waited until later in the flu season to get vaccinated. Too late, it turns out. The flu struck her hard, and she ended up in the intensive care unit. Her ordeal has left her with diminished strength, shortness of breath and a persistent cough. She won’t put off getting her flu shot ever again.
I just kept getting worse. I was in the hospital for three weeks. Everyone thought I was going to die.
Lisa, age 56, living with asthma and diabetes

Flu + Asthma

Asthma sufferers know how scary difficulties with breathing can be. A flu shot can go a long way toward helping to prevent flu or minimizing the symptoms of flu on the lungs.
Directly, flu can worsen symptoms of respiratory disorders, such as asthma, and can lead to pneumonia.
JoJo doesn’t let her chronic asthma get in the way of her fitness competitions and motorcycle trips. She hadn’t gotten the flu before, so she never thought she needed a flu shot. Then, the flu knocked her out of action twice in one year, and she learned that asthma and the flu can be a dangerous combination. To make matters worse, she passed the flu on to her sister who then passed it on to her daughter. Now JoJo will do everything she can to help protect herself and others from the flu — and that includes getting her annual flu shot.
My life stopped in its tracks. I never want to go through that experience again.
JoJo, age 54, living with asthma

Find a flu shot near you