When the Flu Gets Serious

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 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? You should see your doctor and/or go to the ER immediately if you notice your flu symptoms aren’t getting better. Here are some of the signs and symptoms you should be aware of:

flu season, hands, gloves, fever

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Ear Infections

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 of getting an ear infection resulting from the flu, especially when the virus directly attacks the inner ear. 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, seek medical care.


Unfortunately, the flu is a common cause of pneumonia, and combining 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 as well as other tissues in your body. If you have/had the flu, but are also 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 symptoms of the flu improve, but then come back in a few days and/or you have a high fever and a worsening cough, or any of the symptoms below, you should seek medical care immediately.

  • Persistent and/or severe vomiting or diarrhea
  • Coughing up blood
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Stiff neck
  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, and/or wheezing
  • Dehydration
  • Difficulty waking up
  • Skin that is turning gray or bluish
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen

Each year, manufacturers develop a vaccine to help with the prevention of the flu virus. It is generally recommended that everyone aged six months and older get a flu vaccine, especially those who are at high risk for more serious complications to develop from the flu. It may not cover all strains of the flu virus but may help prevent the more serious ones.

Surepoint Emergency Center is a modern emergency medical facility open 24/7/365. As an alternative to the traditional hospital ER experience, we offer convenience and minimal wait time, along with highly-trained emergency medical staff and state-of-the-art equipment.

Our top priority is bringing high-quality emergency care, quickly and easily to your family. We are committed to making patients feel better faster in a comforting and compassionate environment.

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