Every year, millions of people contract the flu, and most recover at home without complications. Some are never even diagnosed with the flu, because they simply assume it’s a cold or other routine illness. Their symptoms are mild enough that they never even visit a doctor.
But for some unlucky people, the flu can land them in the hospital – or worse. Why does the flu sometimes take a serious turn or become deadly?
When your body realizes it has become infected, it unleashes an inflammatory response to attack the invading virus. That inflammation is the precise reason that you suffer aches and pains, fever, and severe fatigue.
As the virus infects the cells lining your throat, nose, and bronchial tubes, the body tries to eject infectious materials through your mouth and nose. That’s why you find yourself coughing and sneezing frequently. But in some people, who aren’t successful at ejecting that material, the infection slips farther down into the lungs. In fact, a secondary infection can result, as the material carries bacteria along with it.
The result is pneumonia in the lungs, which can be life threatening. This situation is more common in older people, who are more easily weakened by the virus. Lying flat in bed, and less productive coughing, aid viruses and bacteria as they infect the lungs.
The end result can be severely clogged air sacs in the lungs, which make breathing more difficult. Even worse, bacteria can then escape into the bloodstream. Sepsis and organ failure become significant risks.
For most people, the flu doesn’t take such a drastic course. But in people of advanced age, and those who are already weakened by other medical conditions, fatality rates during a bad flu season can range from 10 to 20 percent.
If you notice signs of the flu, call or visit your physician immediately for assistance. Follow their advice closely, and make an effort to get up and move about whenever possible. By taking early and careful measures against the flu, you can often prevent it from worsening into pneumonia and other serious complications.