Health One Family Medicine

The Flu: What Are Its Symptoms And Complications?

Generally called the flu, influenza refers to a viral infection that targets the lungs, throat and nose – the respiratory system. Adequate care is usually enough to get over the influenza virus quickly, and in fact, flu symptoms will normally resolve on their own. However, there are times when complications related to influenza can prove deadly.

Your best bet against influenza is an annual flu shot. However, given the numerous different strains of the flu virus, this is not a hundred percent effective.

How Can You Catch the Flu?

The influenza virus spreads through the air in the form of droplets when an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes. You could directly inhale the droplets, or simply pick up the virus from an item like a phone before transferring them to your nose, mouth or eyes.

Flu Symptoms

The flu virus initially feels like the common cold. The first symptoms are sneezing, a sore throat and a runny nose. However, colds take time to develop, while influenza appears all of a sudden. More symptoms include

  • Fever over 38 °C
  • Nasal congestion
  • Chills
  • Sweats
  • Headache
  • Aching muscles
  • Dry cough
  • Weakness and fatigue

Flu Complications

Flu sufferers don’t generally need to visit a doctor, since the symptoms will usually get resolved with time. However, if you’re a person at risk of complications, you need to visit your doctor right away. These flu complications are more likely to hit the following at-risk people:

  • Children under 5 years, particularly under 2 years
  • Adults above 65 years
  • Nursing home residents
  • Pregnant people
  • People in 2 weeks postpartum
  • People with chronic illnesses like heart disease, asthma, diabetes, kidney disease and liver disease
  • People with poor immune systems

Moderate flu complications include ear infections and sinus problems. More serious complications include pneumonia, myocarditis (heart inflammation), encephalitis (brain inflammation), and kidney or respiratory failure. An infection in the respiratory tract could even trigger an intense inflammatory reaction and cause sepsis. Additionally, flu can worsen chronic issues like asthma and heart disease.

So how do you know if you should go to a doctor? Watch out for the following warning signals:

In children

  • Rapid breathing
  • Difficulties in breathing
  • Blue-tinged face or lips
  • Chest pain
  • Ribs pulling in on each inhale
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Dehydration (characterized by dry mouth, no urine, no tears when crying)
  • Lack of alertness
  • Seizures
  • Fever above 40°C
  • Any fever in children younger than 3 months
  • Worsening cough or fever
  • Worsening chronic conditions

In adults

  • Rapid breathing
  • Difficulties in breathing
  • Pressure or pain in the abdomen or chest
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Seizures
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Not urinating
  • Severe weakness
  • Worsening cough or fever
  • Worsening chronic conditions

If the infected person is exhibiting these warning signs, they need to be taken to a health care facility right away. To make an appointment with a physician at Health One Family Medicine, visit or call (469)262-5762.