Flu complications


Influenza, real flu, viral flu


Especially in people with a weaker immune system, such as the chronically ill, the elderly, small children and pregnant women, the flu can lead to complications and even death.

Often there is a so-called superinfection with bacteria and the resulting pneumonia. One speaks of a superinfection when an existing infection, in this case with flu viruses, is followed by an additional infection with bacteria. This secondary pneumonia is usually caused by bacteria such as pneumococci, Staphylococcus aureus or Haemophilus influenzae (the primary illness is the flu, which in this case is not responsible for the pneumonia) and only occurs after 3 - 4 days. Symptoms are a rise in the fever, coughing with strong purulent secretion and shortness of breath. The doctor can hear typical signs of pneumonia by listening to the lungs.

Read more on the topic: pneumonia

Primary influenza pneumonia, which is caused by the flu viruses themselves, is rarer than bacterial pneumonia, but even more dangerous. Heart patients are particularly at risk for this type of pneumonia. Influenza pneumonia is an interstitial pneumonia, i. H. the lung support tissue is severely inflamed. Symptoms are persistent high fever, increasing cough and shortness of breath up to the blue color of the lips and / or face. Little secretion is coughed up; the doctor usually cannot find anything abnormal when listening to the lungs.

Mixed pneumonia caused by flu viruses and bacteria is also possible. The symptoms are then similar to both diseases. Pneumonia is a threatening disease in itself, but if the body is already weakened by the flu, it is even more dangerous and must be treated and monitored in hospital in any case.

You can find out more about recognizing pneumonia on our website: How do I recognize pneumonia?

Peri- or myocarditis can also occur, i.e. inflammation of the pericardium or the heart muscles. These diseases often lead to cardiac arrhythmias and can thus cause sudden cardiac death. The weakening of the body from the flu can make existing heart disease worse and also cause death.

Read more on the topic: Myocarditis

Inflammation of the muscles called myositis can also be caused by the influenza virus. This is a strong inflammation of the muscles, especially the legs.
The pain goes beyond the normal pain in the limbs, there is swelling and severe tenderness of the affected muscles.

Read more on the topic: Muscle inflammation

The central nervous system (CNS), i.e. the brain and spinal cord, can also be affected. Inflammation of the skin surrounding the brain and spinal cord (meninges) caused directly by the flu virus can occur (meningitis) or purulent meningitis due to a superinfection with bacteria. The brain itself can also be infected (encephalitis), the spinal cord (myelitis) up to paraplegic symptoms. Inflammation of the balance organ in the inner ear (labyrinthitis) can also be a complication of the flu.

A very rare complication is Reye's syndrome, which can occur in flu-infected children and adolescents up to approx. 18 years of age who are treated with acetylsalicylic acid (contained in aspirin or ASA 100).

This leads to nausea, vomiting and cramps, and those affected often fall into a coma and die of liver failure and irreversible brain damage.

ASA should only be given to children and adolescents after explicit consultation with a doctor, as Reye's syndrome can also occur with numerous other viral infections (e.g. chickenpox).
Read more information under our topic: Reye syndrome

Complications of swine flu

The Swine flu, also called "new flu", is a variant of the viruswhich, in addition to pigs, can also infect humans.

The course of the Swine flu is usually of a relatively mild nature, although severe courses have also been documented. If complications arise in the course of the disease, infection with the swine flu virus can be fatal. Since that immune system is weakened by fighting the virus, there is a risk of infection with other pathogens that can put additional strain on the body in addition to swine flu. So-called superinfections, diseases, mostly of bacterial origin, can occur and thus constitute complications of swine flu. For example, it can be too Pneumonia, Inflammation of the heart muscle or Meningitis come who require intensive antibiotic therapy and should not be underestimated. Depending on the strength of the individual immune system, there is an increased risk of these bacterial infections.

Avian flu complications

With the bird flu is it a Variant of the influenza viruswhich, in addition to birds, can also infect humans under certain conditions. As with all variants of the influenza virus, the course of the disease can vary in severity. Depending on the status of the individual immune system, so-called bacterial superinfections come, which give the body additional trouble. These infections can include diseases such as a lung infection, Myocarditis or one Meningitis be. Since the course of the disease worsens massively when such a complication occurs, prompt therapy and monitoring of the person affected are the top priorities.

Another complication that can affect people who contract the bird flu virus is the so-called "Cytokine storm“. Cytokines are proteins of Immune system, which is part of a Inflammatory response play a major role. Due to incorrect regulation of the immune system, some types of the virus can provoke a massive release of these cytokines. The generalized inflammatory reaction that occurs clinically often results in pneumonia, which can be severe and life-threatening.

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