What are long-term complications of the flu?

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For many, contracting the influenza virus is not just a matter of aching muscles, a blocked nose, sore throat, and coughing. If you fall in a high risk category, your body may not be able to ward off the virus fast enough and you may develop long-term complications. If you’re pregnant, aged or suffer from a chronic medical condition, chances are you fall into a high risk category, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Medical Conditions That Could Lead to Long-Term Complications

Some of the medical conditions that could possibly lead to long-term complications are kidney and liver disorders, diabetes, neurological conditions, blood disorders, congenital heart failure, and coronary artery disease.

If you’re a long-term aspirin user, obese, HIV positive, or have asthma, you may also fall into the high risk category. Long-term complications often require hospitalization, and if left untreated could even result in death.

Specific Types of Long-Term Complications

Pneumonia is a specific type of long-term influenza related complication. If you have an influenza related chest infection, be sure to check that it does not develop into bronchitis. If it has, you need to get to a doctor for an antibiotic, as if left unchecked, it could lead to pneumonia.

If you have a heart condition, be sure to take extra care if you have the flu, as it could lead to myocarditis, a condition that leaves the heart inflamed. Those in the high risk group are also more susceptible to develop swelling of the brain, or encephalitis, and inflammation of muscle tissue. A severe influenza infection can also lead to a condition called sepsis, where your respiratory tract spurs on excessive inflammation throughout your body. If you develop sepsis, your risk for organ failure, tissue damage, and death increases. Treatment and hospitalization will also be lengthy.

A pre-existing heart condition can also lead to complications such as hospitalization, and death resulting from heart attacks. The flu can be very dangerous for those with asthma, as a respiratory tract infection can lead to severe asthma attacks. There is also a correlation between those who suffer from asthma and those who develop influenza induced pneumonia.

Preventing Long -Term Flu Complications

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the majority of influenza related deaths in industrial locations occur in influenza sufferers over the age of 65 years. The CDC notes that between 80-90 percent of these influenza related deaths occur in people in this age group, and that 50-70 percent of those who are hospitalized are 65 years old and older. If you fall within this age group, having a flu shot administered annually is of utmost importance.

If you suffer from asthma, be sure to opt for the nasal spray vaccine and try and stay away from sick colleagues or family. You should also avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose, and always wash or disinfect surfaces such as workstations.

If you are HIV positive, be sure to commence treatment within 48 hours of a flu diagnosis. If possible, ask your healthcare provider to administer Oseltamivir, the antiviral drug tailored for influenza.

Did you know that the risk for premature labor increases in women who have the flu? According to the CDC, babies born to those women are also prone to developing adverse birth defects. These defects are usually caused by fever associated with influenza. If you’re pregnant and suspect you have the flu, be sure to use Tylenol to combat any fever, as this pharmaceutical is mild and safe to use during pregnancy. Call 911 immediately if your fever does not disappear after use.

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