Most people who get the flu recover in about 5 to 14 days, but some people may develop complications resulting from the flu. The flu typically consists of a few days of coughing, runny nose, chills, fatigue, body aches and a fever. For certain populations, such as the elderly and young children, the flu can be dangerous, even life-threatening.
So, how do you know when a simple case of the “flu” has gotten serious? There are several signs and symptoms that you should be aware of and you should seek medical attention immediately if you notice your flu symptoms aren’t getting better. Here are some the signs and symptoms you should be aware of:
An ear infection may develop as a result of inflammation in the inner ear and the throat caused by the flu virus. Children are especially at risk for getting an ear infection resulting from the flu. Children with excessive sneezing, runny noses and coughing frequently have a buildup of fluid in the ear, which provides the ideal environment for bacterial infections. If you notice these symptoms in children not improving after three to four days, they should seek medical care.
Unfortunately, the flu is a common cause of pneumonia and combing pneumonia with the flu can be life-threatening. Pneumonia causes excess fluid to buildup in the lungs, which in turn reduces the oxygen supply to your lungs along with other tissues in your body. If you have/had the flu, but are noticing symptoms of pneumonia, which may include shortness of breath, aches and pains in the chest, extreme fatigue and fever, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Serious and Persistent Symptoms
If your flu symptoms improve, but then come back in a few days and/or you have a high fever and a worse cough, or any of the symptoms below you should seek medical care.
- Persistent and/or severe vomiting or diarrhea
- Coughing up blood
- Stiff neck
- Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, rapid breathing and/or wheezing
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Difficult to wake up
- Skin that is turning gray or bluish
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
Each year, manufacturers develop a vaccine to help prevent against the flu virus. It is generally recommended that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine, especially those who are at high risk for more serious complications to develop from the flu.