How The Flu Can Lead to Pneumonia

By the bioMérieux Connection Editors

Getting the flu is no fun, but what’s even worse than the runny nose, cough, fever, and other symptoms related to the flu, is when complications arise. Pneumonia is one of the most common complications that can occur as a result of the flu. The condition can become very serious and even life-threatening. Each year, pneumonia causes over a million hospitalizations and more than 50,000 deaths in the United States.

Once your immune system is compromised, or while it is fighting a virus, you have a higher risk of developing more severe infections, such as pneumonia. If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms and know you have a high risk of developing flu-related complications, you should see your doctor right away. Children under one year, those over age 65, those who are pregnant, those who have chronic medical conditions, or those who have a weakened immune system may have an increased risk of complications.  

Normally, flu symptoms can be treated at home and people don’t always need to see a doctor, however, being aware of your symptoms can help you determine whether or not your case of the flu has become more serious. Certain serious flu-like symptoms are crucial to watch out for while you’re under the weather, such as serious congestion or chest pain, difficulty breathing, a fever over 102 degrees, or coughing that produces pus. Any one of those symptoms warrant a doctor’s visit. In general, if your symptoms persist for more than 3-5 days, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and see a healthcare provider.

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs, and can be caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It can range from mild to severe and symptoms may include a high fever, a cough that doesn’t improve, shortness of breath with daily activities, or feeling worse after the flu. Specifically, the infection causes your lungs to become inflamed and fill up with fluid, making it difficult for oxygen to get into your bloodstream. It is crucial that pneumonia is treated right away.

Many factors determine how serious pneumonia may be, including its cause, as well as the patient’s age and overall health. Getting the annual flu vaccine is of the best ways to prevent flu related complications like pneumonia. Even if you get the flu after being vaccinated, symptoms are often less serious and recovery is frequently faster.


This information is for general educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult a medical director, physician, or other qualified health provider regarding  diagnosis and treatment of a medical condition.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of bioMérieux, Inc.

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