Complications of Flu


About complications: Complications of Flu are secondary conditions, symptoms, or other disorders that are caused by Flu. In many cases the distinction between symptoms of Flu and complications of Flu is unclear or arbitrary.

Complications list for Flu: The list of complications that have been mentioned in various sources for Flu includes:

Complications of Flu: For elderly people, newborn babies, and people with certain chronic illnesses, however, the flu and its complications can be life-threatening.1

You can have flu complications if you get a bacterial infection, which causes pneumonia in your weakened lungs. Pneumonia also can be caused by the flu virus itself.

Symptoms of complications will usually appear after you start feeling better. After a brief period of improvement, you may suddenly get

  • High fever
  • Shaking chills
  • Chest pain with each breath
  • Coughing that produces thick, yellow-greenish-colored mucus
Pneumonia can be a very serious and sometimes life-threatening condition. If you have any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor immediately so that you can get the appropriate treatment.1

Reye's syndrome, a condition that affects the nerves, sometimes develops in children and adolescents who are recovering from the flu. Reye's syndrome begins with nausea and vomiting, but the progressive mental changes (such as confusion or delirium) cause the greatest concern.

The syndrome often begins in young people after they take aspirin to get rid of fever or pain. Although very few children develop Reye's syndrome, you should consult a doctor before giving aspirin or products that contain aspirin to children. Acetaminophen does not seem to be associated with Reye's syndrome.

Other complications of the flu that affect children are

  • Convulsions caused by fever
  • Croup
  • Ear infections, such as otitis media
Newborn babies recently out of intensive care units are particularly vulnerable to suffering from flu complications.1

Most people who get the flu recover fully within 1-2 weeks. However, some people develop serious, life-threatening complications such as pneumonia. In an average season, flu is associated with 20,000 deaths nationwide. 2

While your body is busy fighting off the flu, you may be less able to resist a second infection. Older people and people with chronic illnesses run the greatest risk of getting secondary infections, especially pneumonia. In an average year, flu leads to about 20,000 deaths nationwide and many more hospitalizations.3

1. excerpt from The Flu, NIAID Fact Sheet: NIAID
2. excerpt from Facts About Flu (Influenza): CDC-OC
3. excerpt from What to Do About the Flu - Age Page - Health Information: NIA

Last revision: May 30, 2003

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