Flu Complications Prevention, Signs & Dangers


Flu Complications Prevention, Signs & Dangers

Flu Complications Prevention, Signs & Dangers

The recent cold weather has increased the number of influenza cases reported in Texas. Thankfully, most people recover from the virus in a matter of days. However, some people may develop complications that could become severe and even deadly unless they receive timely and appropriate medical care.

Most Common Flu Complications


These are some of the most common flu complications and their warning signs.


When we are sick with the flu, our immune system spends most of its energy and resources combating the influenza virus. Unfortunately, this can sometimes allow harmful bacteria to migrate into the lungs and cause infection.

Pneumonia is a serious infection, especially for children under five and adults over 65. It causes inflammation in the lungs’ alveoli (air sacks), leading to fluid build-up. As a result, breathing becomes difficult.

Warning Signs of Pneumonia

  • Trouble breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe cough with mucus
  • Chills or sweating
  • Persistent fever of 102°F or higher
  • Chest pains
Flu Complications Prevention, Signs & Dangers


The influenza virus (responsible for the flu) mainly affects the upper respiratory tract, including the nasal cavity, sinuses, and throat. However, in some instances, it can spread to the lungs’ main airways (bronchi), irritate their mucus membranes, and cause a condition known as bronchitis.

Warning Signs of Bronchitis

  • Severe cough lasting more than three weeks (usually with mucus)
  • Severe cough with a fever greater than 100.4°F
  • Cough that produces mucus of various colors (yellow, green, gray)
  • Blood-tinged sputum

Sinus Infection

Sinus infections affect over 31 million Americans and result in more than 16 million doctor visits yearly. They occur when harmful bacteria take advantage of your weakened immune system and invade your sinuses (hollow cavities in your face that connect to the nose).

Warning Signs of a Severe Sinus Infection

  • Severe headache
  • Pain or swelling near the eyes
  • Swollen forehead
  • Vision problems, such as seeing double
  • Trouble breathing
  • Mental confusion
  • Neck stiffness
Flu Complications Prevention, Signs & Dangers

Ear Infections

Middle ear infections (otitis media) can happen when mucus accumulates in the middle ear and the Eustachian tube (a thin tube connecting the middle ear to the back of the nose). Ottis media results in painful inflammation and swelling of the middle ear.

Warning Signs of an Ear Infection


Anyone experiencing ear pain or discharge needs medical attention as soon as possible.


You should take your child to the doctor or ER if any of the following symptoms develop:

  • Extreme ear pain
  • Ear discharge
  • Symptoms last more than a day
  • They are having trouble sleeping
  • Unexplained moodiness


Encephalitis occurs when the flu virus attacks the brain tissue, leading to brain inflammation. Although rare, encephalitis is a severe complication and therefore requires emergency care. It can lead to permanent damage to nerve cells, bleeding in the brain, and permanent brain damage.

Warning Signs of Encephalitis

In Young Children

  • Protrusions or lumps in the soft spots of an infant’s skull
  • Uncontrollable crying, or crying that worsens when you pick the child up
  • Body stiffness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting

In Older Children and Adults

  • Severe headache
  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Mental confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Unexplained severe mood changes
  • Speech or hearing problems
  • Double vision
  • Paralysis

Preventing Flu Complications

Anytime the flu leads to complications, it can be a scary scenario. That’s why at RapidCare ER, we always advocate for prevention.

  • Consider getting a yearly influenza virus vaccine to protect yourself from severe illness. In addition, we advise high-risk individuals to consult with their doctors at the first sign of flu symptoms.
  • If you are feeling unwell, avoid going outside. Additionally, try to keep your distance from people who are sick.
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • To help keep your immune system strong, follow a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, and no smoking.

The flu is a highly transmissible disease; no matter how careful we are, we are all susceptible to infection. So, if you develop severe symptoms, don’t hesitate to visit our ER; we will always be here to care for you.