Complications of flu
Some people get very sick with flu. It can cause serious complications, like chest or sinus infections.
In severe cases people need to stay in hospital. Around 500 people die from the flu each year.
People at higher risk of getting complications from flu include:
- pregnant people and those who have just given birth
- people with an ongoing health condition — like asthma, diabetes, cancer, a heart or lung condition, and conditions that affect the nervous or immune systems
- significantly overweight people
- Māori and Pacific peoples aged 55 and over
- people aged 65 years or over
- pēpi and tamariki, especially under 5 years
- people with serious mental health or addiction issues.
Danger signs for pēpi and tamariki
You should get medical help if your pēpi or tamariki:
- has a fever and is under 3 months old
- will not take feed or take fluids — do not force them
- has fast or noisy breathing or if they are wheezing or grunting
- has the area below the ribs sucking inward instead of expanding when they breathe in
- is very pale
- is drowsy or difficult to wake
- is irritable, for example not wanting to be held
- is limp or unable to move
- has dry nappies or no tears when they are crying — this means they are dehydrated
- has signs of other serious conditions, such as meningitis
- has a rash.
The flu virus changes often. This means the vaccine has to be adjusted each year to match the new strains of the disease. Your best defence against flu is to get a yearly flu vaccine and follow basic hygiene practices.
Some people can get flu vaccines for free. Find out about flu vaccines and when to get them.
Other ways to avoid flu
You can also protect yourself and your whānau in other ways.
- Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, and dry them for 20 seconds — or use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Do not share drinks.
- Avoid crowded places.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.