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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

FLU— Emergency Symptoms and Complications

Emergency Symptoms

In most cases, you don't need to see your doctor when you have a cold or the flu. However, if you have any of the symptoms in the box below, call your doctor.

In children:

  • High (above 102 F or 39 C) or prolonged fever
  • A cold that lasts for more than 10 days
  • Trouble breathing, fast breathing or wheezing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Earache or drainage from the ear
  • Changes in mental state (such as not waking up, irritability or seizures)
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve, but return with a fever and a worse cough
  • Worsening of chronic medical condition (such as diabetes or heart disease)

In adults:

  • High (above 102 F or 39 C) or prolonged fever
  • A cold that lasts for more than 10 days
  • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest
  • Fainting or feeling like you are about to faint
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Severe pain in your face or forehead
  • Hoarseness, sore throat or a cough that won't go away

Complications

You can have flu complications if you get a bacterial infection, which can cause pneumonia in your weakened lungs. Pneumonia also can be caused by the flu virus itself. Complications usually appear after you start feeling better. After a brief period of improvement, you may suddenly get these symptoms:

  • High fever
  • Shaking chills
  • Chest pain with each breath
  • Coughing that produces thick, yellow-greenish-colored mucus

Pneumonia can be a very serious and sometimes life-threatening condition. If you have any of these symptoms, you should contact your health care provider immediately to get the appropriate treatment.

Flu complications in children and teenagers

Reye's syndrome, a condition that affects the nerves, sometimes develops in children and teenagers who are recovering from the flu. Reye's syndrome begins with nausea and vomiting, but the progressive mental changes (such as confusion or delirium) cause the greatest concern.

The syndrome often begins in young people after they take aspirin to get rid of fever or pain. Although very few children develop Reye's syndrome, you should consult a health care provider before giving aspirin or products that contain aspirin to children. Acetaminophen does not seem to be connected with Reye's syndrome.

Other complications of the flu that can affect children are

  • Convulsions caused by fever
  • Croup
  • Ear infections, such as otitis media

Newborn babies recently out of intensive care units are particularly vulnerable to suffering from flu complications.

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