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Respiratory Complications Associated with the Flu

As a respiratory viral infection, the flu can lead to an increased risk of complications associated with the lungs and breathing passages. If you have emphysema, asthma, or chronic bronchitis, contracting the flu can potentially increase your chances of a more serious illness, such as pneumonia.

The achy chest and tender sinuses we experience when battling the flu is associated with the inflammation of the respiratory system. The inflammation obstructs our airways and, as a result, the flu can cause trouble breathing. Common symptoms include a sore throat and irritated sinuses. Some conditions that the flu can cause and/or worsen include:

  • Asthma. For those who suffer from asthma, respiratory problems – wheezing, shortness of breath, tightening of chest– can be exacerbated.
  • Bronchitis. When the bronchial tubes are irritated and inflamed due to infection, breathing is often difficult. Bronchitis causes an irritated throat, blocked nose, fits of coughing, and shortness of breath. When combined with the flu, complications can arise.
  • Pneumonia. A serious infection of the lungs, pneumonia occurs when the immune system is compromised. The flu is a top cause of pneumonia, which the lungs to become inflamed and fill with fluid. Pneumonia symptoms can become very serious and lead to difficulty breathing, fever, severe coughing, chest pains and vomiting.

It is best to keep the flu at bay by avoiding exposure as much as possible. Wash your hands after using public bathrooms, public transportation or using anything another person may have touched. Wash your hands before you eat and avoid touching your face when you are outdoors. If you have had a recent bout with the flu and are having respiratory troubles, it is important to seek medical advice in order to manage symptoms and avoid further complications. A specialist trained to treat the respiratory system, an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctor can evaluate your symptoms and recommend a course of treatment. Respiratory infections can become serious, so prompt attention is strongly advised.

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