- Cold and Flu Complications: How Dangerous Are These Illnesses?
- What Complications Can a Cold or the Flu Cause?
- From our Obsession
- How should I decide when to stay home?
- Am I less contagious after the first few days?
- How far can spray from a sneeze or cough travel?
- But if I cough into my elbow, it’s fine, right?
- But how does a healthy person die from the flu?
- Should I go to the doctor for flu symptoms?
- I’m not sick. Is it too late to get a flu shot?
- Will my colleagues judge me for staying home?
- Um, you don’t know what my workplace is like
Cold and Flu Complications: How Dangerous Are These Illnesses?
What Complications Can a Cold or the Flu Cause?
A cold or the flu can lead to health complications by reducing your body’s ability to fight off other infections (such as the viruses or bacteria that cause pneumonia) or by aggravating existing conditions (such as triggering asthma attacks).
Potential cold and flu complications include the following:
An inflammation of the airways that bring air to and from the lungs, acute bronchitis is commonly caused by viruses that cause colds and the flu. (5) Bacteria and inhaled irritants can also cause the condition. Symptoms of bronchitis include shortness of breath, wheezing, and mucus-laden coughing.
Being ill can decrease appetite and liquid intake, making it easy to become dehydrated. Diarrhea and vomiting can also contribute to dehydration. Signs of dehydration in children include lethargy, fewer or lighter wet diapers, and fewer tears when crying. Adults will develop a dry mouth, urinate less, produce darker-colored urine, and feel light-headed. Severe dehydration is a medical emergency and may require treatment with intravenous fluids.
“With a cold, you can get ear pain because the eardrum gets inflamed by the viral infection,” says Richard Rosenfeld, MD, a professor and the chairman of otolaryngology at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. Ear infections are more common in children because the eustachian tubes (passageways that drain fluids out of the ear) are smaller and can easily become swollen or blocked.
An inflammation of the middle layer of the heart’s wall (myocardium), myocarditis can be caused by cold or flu viruses. It may begin with mild flulike symptoms, such as fatigue and fever, but it can lead to chest pain, arrhythmia, heart attack, or stroke.
Viral infections like influenza can cause inflammation that damages muscle fibers. The signs include muscle aches and weakness, as well as flulike symptoms such as fever, cough, and runny nose. Myositis can subside on its own in a few days or weeks, or it can become a chronic condition. (6)
An inflammation of the saclike tissue surrounding the heart (pericardium), pericarditis is commonly caused by viral infections. Symptoms include sharp chest pain resembling a heart attack accompanied by fever, weakness, and coughing. Most of the time, the condition resolves itself with little or no treatment, but severe cases require hospitalization and surgery. (7)
A common and potentially life-threatening complication of flu, pneumonia is a lung infection that can be caused by viruses or bacteria. Cold and influenza viruses can lead to viral pneumonia, which is usually less serious than bacterial pneumonia. Flulike symptoms may include fever, sore throat, cough, muscle pain, and fatigue. Bacterial pneumonia may follow a viral infection, like a cold or influenza. Symptoms include a cough that produces discolored mucus, high fever, and shortness of breath. If untreated, pneumonia can become severe. Signs of severe pneumonia include difficulty breathing, rapid heart rate, and a bluish tint to the lips and nails.
Sinusitis, an inflammation of the sinuses, can be viral or bacterial. It is usually triggered by a viral respiratory infection, such as a cold or the flu. If you have nasal congestion associated with a cold or the flu, blowing your nose can jolt bacteria from your nose into your sinuses and lead to infection. The most common symptoms are a congested or runny nose but may also include toothache, facial pain, and cough.
Emergency rooms around the U.S. are crowded with flu patients as the country experiences one of the most intense flu seasons in years, according to news reports. But if you do catch the flu, how do you know if you need to go to the ER?
Most patients with the flu will recover on their own without medical care. But in some cases, the flu can be life-threatening, and so it’s important to know how to recognize signs of a flu emergency, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).
“Most people with flu typically do not require emergency care, but this season’s disease strain is much more active than previous years,” Dr. Paul Kivela, president of ACEP, said in a statement. “Public health experts project that tens of thousands of people could suffer flu-related deaths.” (Health officials estimate that since 2010, the number of yearly flu deaths in the United States has ranged from 12,000 to 56,000.)
“If you have emergency warning signs or complications, go to the nearest emergency department immediately,” Kivela said.
According to ACEP, signs that the flu requires emergency care for adults include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
- Chest pain or abdominal pain.
- Sudden dizziness.
- Severe or persistent vomiting.
- Flu-like symptoms that appear to get better, but then return with a fever and worse cough.
- Swelling in the mouth or throat.
In children, emergency symptoms include:
Fast breathing or trouble breathing.
- Bluish skin color.
- Not drinking enough fluids.
- Not waking up or not interacting.
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held.
- Flu-like symptoms that improve, but then return with a fever and worse cough.
- Fever with a rash.
More common, nonemergency symptoms of the flu can include fever and chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache or body ache, fatigue, vomiting or diarrhea, according to ACEP.
If you develop flu-like symptoms but have a nonemergency illness, you should first seek help from your primary care doctor or an urgent care center, ACEP said. If you go to the ER and you don’t actually have the flu, you could catch it from others who have it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Indeed, in a recent viral video, a Florida nurse warned people not to go to the ER if they are healthy or don’t have emergency symptoms, because of the risk of catching the flu. “If you don’t have what I call a true emergency, this would not be the time to come to the emergency room,” Katherine Lockler said in the video.
Other tips to avoid catching the flu this season include washing your hands often, avoiding direct contact with ill people and getting a flu shot, Kivela said.” Even though the flu shot is less effective this year, it still can reduce your risk of getting the flu and having serious complications,” Kivela said.
People who are at high risk for flu complications include young children, people ages 65 and over, pregnant women and people with chronic conditions, according to the CDC. If people in this “high-risk” group develop flu-like symptoms, the CDC recommends that they should receive treatment with antiviral medications early in the course of their illness. To ask about receiving these treatments, people can contact their health care provider rather than go to the ER if they do not have signs of a flu emergency, the CDC said.
People can also avoid spreading germs by covering their mouth when they cough, washing their hands and staying home from work, school or other activities when they aren’t feeling well, Kivela said.
Original article on Live Science.
Come flu season, every person of all ages is at risk of influenza. Every region across the world is susceptible to the contagious respiratory illness. Being different than a common cold, the flu can take effect suddenly and can range from mild to severe in illness.
While many sick with the flu tend to recover within two weeks, some people can develop complications.
One of those complications can lead to pneumonia. According to Everyday Health, one-third of pneumonia cases develop from a respiratory virus, with the flu the most common of those.
Even if you’ve only contracted a mild case of influenza, the infection can severely weaken your immune system. Keep in mind that the virus even keeps your body from correctly taking in air.
According to Shape, the flu constricts and inflames the airways in your body. This would then, “slow down the movement of air and hinder your ability to clear mucus and secretions.” This inflammation can cause an increase in your body’s mucus production.
A buildup of bacteria would then form in your healthy body. Although the body would usually be able to fight the buildup away, influenza changes that. With a weakened immune system, your body may not be able to get over the foreign bacteria and viruses.
This is how those with influenza can easily turn their flu into something much worse — pneumonia.
Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation in the lungs. Severe coughing, a high fever, and difficulty breathing are the first symptoms. While it affects millions worldwide, it is generally mild and can be treated with medicine.
Although, pneumonia can be deadly for those with chronic conditions, those who smoke regularly, young children, and the elderly. According to the CDC, pneumonia is the, “leading infectious cause of death in children younger than 5 years old worldwide.”
Pneumonia can be caused by viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Depending on which kind of pneumonia you contract, then you’ll need ether antibiotics or antivirals.
If you think your flu is turning into pneumonia, doctors can do a few tests to determine the best treatment. Doctors can rely on simple tests, like listening to your breathing, to get the right treatment. More severe tests include x-rays and blood cultures to narrow down your type of pneumonia.
With all this in mind about the flu turning into pneumonia, there are a few steps you can take to make sure your case of the flu doesn’t take a turn for the worse.
First off, getting vaccinated against the flu can help protect you against influenza. The best way to avoid a flu virus that becomes pneumonia is to stay flu-free. In The Journal of the American Medical Association, a study determined patients with pneumonia from the flu usually didn’t receive the flu shot.
Stay on top of flu season by getting a flu vaccination and you can also get the pneumococcal vaccine to cover the bases of attracting bacterial pneumonia.
Other basic immune boosting habits can also help prevent respiratory infections. Maintain healthy sleep habits and constantly wash your hands. Droplets from an infected person can also quickly spread the virus. Make sure to cover your mouth when coughing and don’t share drinking items.
If you’re being diligent about these habits and you’ve received your annual flu shot, then you are armed and prepared for flu season.
Did you know there were different types of pneumonia? Let us know in the comments, or via Facebook and Twitter.
Written for Passport Health by Brianna Malotke. Brianna is a freelance writer and costume designer located in Illinois. She’s an avid coffee drinker and enjoys researching new topics for writing.
Influenza, the flu, is a common, very infectious viral infection. Over the years, many people have used the term “the flu” to describe anything from a stomach bug to a bout of food poisoning, but influenza is a respiratory illness and doesn’t have anything to do with the gastrointestinal system – the system that runs from your mouth to your rectum.
People who are infected with an influenza virus may develop sepsis. Sometimes incorrectly called blood poisoning, sepsis is the body’s often deadly response to infection. Sepsis kills and disables millions and requires early suspicion and rapid treatment for survival.
Sepsis and septic shock can result from an infection anywhere in the body, such as pneumonia, influenza, or urinary tract infections. Worldwide, one-third of people who develop sepsis die. Many who do survive are left with life-changing effects, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain and fatigue, organ dysfunction (organs don’t work properly) and/or amputations.
Doctors have found that rates of sepsis and severe sepsis tend to go up during so-called flu season.
What is influenza?
There are different types of influenza. There is the annual seasonal influenza and others, such as the H1N1 influenza, avian flu, and swine flu.
There are three separate types of viruses:
- Type A: Type A influenzas affect both people and animals, such as birds. The animals help spread the virus, which can be very serious. The type A flus are the ones that cause most of the flu pandemics or epidemics. In 1918, the world was hit with the “Spanish flu,” which killed millions of people. It was feared in 2009 that the H1N1 virus would have similar outcomes.
- Type B: Type B influenzas do not infect animals and do not cause epidemics or pandemics, but they still can cause serious harm.
- Type C: Type C influenzas are milder than either types A or B. They do not cause epidemics or pandemics and they only affect humans.
The viruses that cause influenza are not static, which means they do not stay the same. They can change and mutate, turning into new viruses. This is why if you catch the flu one year, you can catch it again the next – because the virus has changed enough from the year before that your body doesn’t recognize it.
The types of influenza, such as H1N1, are named by their make up. There are 16 subtypes of hemagglutinin (the “H”) and nine subtypes of neuraminidase (the “N”). These are proteins that help make up the virus. Therefore, the name of the virus is given by which humagglutinin and which neuraminidase are present.
The most commonly known influenza is the seasonal one. This is a different virus that moves around the world each year.
How do you get influenza?
Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory infection. It is caught when the virus comes in contact with the mucus membranes in your nose. This could be contamination of the air (someone next to you sneezing) or by touch. Someone who has the flu touches his nose or mouth and then touches an object, which you then pick up. If you don’t wash your hands, at some point if you touch your mouth or nose, you have brought the virus close enough to infect yourself.
What are the symptoms of influenza?
It’s important to understand the difference between influenza and colds. With the common cold, symptoms usually come on gradually, but with the flu, the symptoms appear quite suddenly. They can include:
- Fever (although not always present) and chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle aches, body aches
- Headache, sometimes severe
- Vomiting and diarrhea, more likely in young children
Is there treatment for the flu?
If you are like most people, a bout with influenza may hit you hard. But after a week or two, you will begin to recover, although it could take several weeks before you fell that you are back to normal. However, for some people the flu can cause serious complications and even death. Complications may range from secondary infections (infections that occur as a result of the flu) to dehydration to sepsis.
If you think you have the flu, it’s always best to check with your doctor or nurse practitioner to see if you should be treated with antiviral medications. If you are not a high risk of developing complications, your doctor may tell you just to manage the flu at home, but to go to the emergency if you seem to get worse or develop new symptoms.
At-home care of the flu means managing the symptoms and preventing dehydration:
- Rest. Stay in bed to let your body restore itself and to prevent spreading your infection
- Drink a lot of fluids. It is easy to become dehydrated when you have the flu. These should be water and clear fluids, such as broths.
- Take over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen if you are allowed to. If the sick person is a child or teen, do not give aspirin because of a rare, but fatal complication that can occur, called Reyes syndrome. Over-the-counter cold-and-flu remedies are not recommended for children under the age of six years, as per the FDA.
Anyone who has the flu and develops the following signs, should seek medical help as soon as possible, regardless of age or usual state of health:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- High fever for more than three days
If you are at high risk for developing complications, your doctor may want you to take antiviral medications, such as Tamiflu. These medications must be taken within the first 72 hours of exposure to the virus for them to be effective. You may still feel ill before they begin to take effect.
Can the flu be prevented?
Yes, influenza can be prevented with a few simple precautions and, in many cases, with a vaccination.
- Hand washing is the number one weapon against influenza. Washing your hands after touching your face if you have the flu or after touching potentially contaminated objects (such as door handles, public phones) has been proven to effectively reduce the chances of passing on or developing the flu.
- Sneezing or coughing into your elbow is a good way to reduce transmission of the flu virus. Unlike sneezing or coughing into your hand, your elbow won’t touch common objects that will be touched by others.
- If you have the flu, avoid others while you have symptoms and for 24 hours after the symptoms have gone.
- Get your annual flu vaccination. Every year, a new vaccine is developed based on the information about the new influenza strain that is circling the globe. Getting a vaccination is your best protection, although it may not be 100%. If you cannot get the vaccine for health reasons, encourage your family members, friends, and coworkers to be vaccinated. If they reduce their risk of getting the flu, your risk of catching it becomes lower.
If you suspect sepsis, call 9-1-1 or go to a hospital and tell your medical professional, “I AM CONCERNED ABOUT SEPSIS.”
- Summer Fun: Staying Safe, Reducing Infection Risk
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- The 2017/18 Flu Season Is Over: Can We Relax Now?
The information here is also available as a Sepsis Information Guide, which is a downloadable format for easier printing.
Would you like to share your story about sepsis or read about others who have had sepsis? Please visit Faces of Sepsis, where you will find hundreds of stories from survivors and tributes to those who died from sepsis.
Updated December 13, 2017
From our Obsession
The Happier Office
Whether you work in a cubicle, café, or corner office.
“No one wants me here.”
This cry for reassurance was moaned by a colleague the other day, and I wish I could say I responded generously. I could have said, “It’s not you, it’s whatever illness is behind those thunderous coughs.” I could have urged him to look after himself, not to worry about us. But I selfishly kept my head down, waiting out the awkward silence.
Also, I was afraid of spray.
Because let’s get real about the flu of 2018, which has already been deadly and has led to higher rates of hospitalization this year by mid-January versus other years. The difference is that the season has brought more cases of the H3N2 strain of the virus, or influenza A, which was also responsible for a brutal flu season in 2014 and 2015. Public health advocates are urging schools and workplaces to take the flu seriously and to keep it contained as much as possible, which means sick employees should stay home when symptoms develops.
But there are always etiquette questions and subtle pressures around taking time off to deal with illness. Here, we answer some frequently asked questions.
How should I decide when to stay home?
If you’re asking the question, you should probably call in sick, the Mayo Clinic’s Pritish Tosh, an infectious diseases researcher, told the New York Times.
Unfortunately, that isn’t an easy answer for people paid by the hour or day, and for those who must spend a portion of their precious personal time off to lay in bed with the flu.
More than 30% of of private sector employees in the US receive no paid sick leave, according to the Bureau for Labor Statistics, and those without are on the low end of the wage spectrum. Only three out of 10 in the lowest income quartile are offered paid sick days, compared to nine out of 10 people in the top quarter.
That’s a shame, and not only for those employees. Looking at data from Google Flu Trends, economists have found that when paid sick leave becomes a right in a city, fewer people get sick overall.
Managers who insist that employees work when they’re ill are only sabotaging their own organization. Working while sick and thus working unproductively (it’s called “presenteeism,” and that isn’t even newfangled management speak) might be costing the American economy $250 billion per year, by some calculations.
Am I less contagious after the first few days?
No, you’re contagious for one week, and you can infect other people with the flu one day before your symptoms develop, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Kids can stay contagious for even longer.
To be safe, students and educators should stay away from school for 24 hours after a fever has subsided, the CDC suggests. The same guideline was offered by another doctor who spoke to the Times, though in that case referring to anyone, not only children. Another rule of thumb: You are technically contagious for as long as you have symptoms.
How far can spray from a sneeze or cough travel?
Twenty feet or more.
In fact, Prevention Magazine recently put this question to Lydia Bourouiba, assistant professor of mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The verdict:
After looking at high-speed images of sneezes and coughs, as well as conducting lab experiments and mathematical models, Bourouiba found small droplets travel up to 200 times further than larger ones (think centimeters versus meters)—and suspend in the air indefinitely. Should these droplets suspend near, say, an air conditioner, they can be transmitted from building to building, she says.
But if I cough into my elbow, it’s fine, right?
It’s thought to be better, and it’s recommended by public health officials when a tissue that can be discarded is not available.
In 2013, however, researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada tested such protocols, albeit with a small group of volunteers, and measured what happened to pathogens of different sizes when someone who coughed followed standard cough etiquette, including the crook-of-the-arm method. They concluded that it didn’t “block the release and dispersion of a variety of different diameter droplets to the surrounding environment.” Droplets smaller than one micron, or one millionth of a meter, easily got past the inner elbow.
Flu germs also jump to others when left to linger on door handles, printer buttons, or other shared tools and furniture.
But how does a healthy person die from the flu?
It’s an issue of your system becoming overloaded. As Peter Shearer, M.D., director of the emergency department at New York’s Mount Sinai hospital explained it to Time: “You’ve got a lot more mucus production, coughing, et cetera. It sets you up for possibly a bacterial infection on top of .” And, though it’s extremely rare, in some people who develop pneumonia, “it will spread to their bloodstream and cause an overwhelming, multi-system infection.”
Should I go to the doctor for flu symptoms?
Yes, try to see the doctor within 48 hours to be treated with Tamiflu, an antiviral medication, Shearer also told Time. But stay away from the ER, he cautioned. You might infect people whose immune systems are already weak.
By the way, the symptoms of a flu, according to the Center for Disease Control are: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, tiredness, and possible diarrhea and vomiting. But only a swab test to your nose or throat, at the doctor’s office, can confirm that you have the flu and not a cold.
What’s more, the CDC says adults suffering from the flu should see a doctor immediately if they experience any of the following:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
I’m not sick. Is it too late to get a flu shot?
No! Although the ideal time to get the shot is in October, and there’s a chance this year’s flu vaccine is not as effective as past formulations, getting a flu shot late in the season still offers some protection.
Will my colleagues judge me for staying home?
Not only do your colleagues not want to fall ill, some of them may be pregnant, or caring for someone whose immune system is already compromised. So, no. If your company has a compassionate sick day policy and/or you’re able to work from home on days when your symptoms are mild, your colleagues are more likely to judge you if you do show up.
Um, you don’t know what my workplace is like
Fair enough. About one quarter of Americans say they go to work sick, according to a survey by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), a US-based public health research group, and their reasons have to do with workplace pressure, as Newsweek has reported. NSF found that a quarter of people who report for duty sick think their bosses want them there, sickly, feverish and fatigued, or not, and 13% are afraid that things will go wrong without their presence.
A study conducted by National Public Radio and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health pinpointed reasons people go to work sniffling, with even more granularity. It found that most people who didn’t use all of their paid sick days felt they weren’t sick enough to max out their allotment. Respondents also said, however, that they wanted to “save them for another time”; or they were concerned “there wouldn’t be enough people to cover their work”; or their heavy workload “made it too hard to take sick days off”; or “working more would help them get ahead.”
In some companies and industries, too, employees who call in sick the least often are awarded cash prizes, an incentive system that feels perfectly backwards. Instead, managers ought to be reassuring direct reports that it’s okay to go home, that’s it’s everyone’s best interest.
Because here’s what people who muscle through a flu (or expect others to) ought to know, besides the small fact that it can prove fatal: Working while sick seems to have an accumulative effect on your body’s ability to bounce back. In 2009, research from Denmark found that people who went to work sick more than six times in a year (not only with the flu, but other aches and ailments, too) had a 74% chance of falling sick enough to require at least a two-month leave at a later date.
My sick colleague—who has since recovered—didn’t know this when he eventually packed up and headed home early that day last week. He was more concerned about us, his office neighbors. If only employees and employers everywhere were as thoughtful…
We can all relate to the feeling of dread after experiencing the first sniffle, sneeze, or throat tickle of the season. It forces us to ask the unavoidable question:
“Am I getting sick?”
If the symptoms linger, there’s no getting around it—you’ve come down with something. The next question is, what? Recognizing when your illness is mild, like a cold, or when it’s more serious, like the flu or even pneumonia, is crucial. While a cold might mean some extra rest and a day or two off work, the flu can require medical attention, and pneumonia is a more serious problem.
The good news is there are distinct differences between the symptoms of a cold, the flu, and pneumonia. While these indicators may not be fool-proof, they can serve as a good starting point for a conversation with your doctor:
1. Pinpoint where your symptoms are
The location of your worst symptoms can be a tell-tale sign of what ails you. Here’s a basic breakdown:
· In your head (eyes, nose, or throat)—you likely have a cold. If your symptoms stop at a runny nose, and a sore throat, there’s a good chance you are suffering from the common cold. These symptoms are often confused with seasonal allergies, but here’s another good rule of thumb—if you have a sore throat, it’s more likely a cold than allergies.
· In your whole body—you likely have the flu. Aches throughout your body, feeling really run down, and a fever indicate you have something more serious than a cold – you probably have the flu.
· In your chest—you may have pneumonia. There’s a lot of overlap with symptoms of pneumonia and symptoms of cold and flu. Fever and chills can also be a sign of pneumonia, but sharp pain in your chest that occurs with taking a breath, along with issues like difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, are potential indicators of pneumonia. Pay close attention to chest pain that occurs when taking a breath and is worse on one side of your body than the other.
2. Check the calendar
Colds are most common in the transitions into fall and spring, while flu season typically picks up a little bit later (often in October running through February and sometimes as late as May). While there is considerable overlap, far fewer people suffer from the flu outside of this season.
Because pneumonia is a common complication stemming from the flu and can result from colds as well, it tends to share seasonality with these illnesses.
3. Look at your tissue
It might not be the most pleasant thing, but opening that used tissue back up can provide some clues about what ails you. If you have a cold or the flu, your mucus will start off clear and could potentially change colors to white, yellowish or green as your body fights the infection.
But large amounts of yellow mucus, especially right after you first start experiencing symptoms, could be a sign of bacterial infection. Lots of phlegm in the chest, resulting in what doctors call a “productive cough,” could also be an indicator of pneumonia.
I think I have a cold, the flu, or pneumonia—what should I do next?
If you think you have the common cold, over-the-counter medicines may curb your symptoms, but there’s little you can do to speed up your recovery time. Your best bet is to stay hydrated and get some rest. Taking some time off work and washing your hands frequently can reduce spread of the virus.
If you think you might have the flu, get to the doctor or urgent care center. Unlike a cold, there are drugs to treat the flu virus, and these drugs are most effective within the first 48 hours of the infection. Getting to a doctor is especially important for people with chronic conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), people who have weakened immune systems, and women who are pregnant. Antibiotics are not effective against the common cold or the flu, and could actually make things worse.
People who suspect they may have pneumonia, particularly those who are short of breath, should visit an urgent care or emergency department. Antibiotics are often used as treatment for pneumonia.
When you first start experiencing symptoms, differentiating between a cold, the flu, and pneumonia isn’t always easy or straightforward. Fortunately, a health care professional can usually give you a better idea of what’s going on. Pay close attention to your symptoms and don’t wait to see a medical professional if you think it may be something beyond the sniffles.