How to Avoid a Dangerous Flu Complication

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More than one out of each 10 deaths within the U.S. in the course of the third week of 2018 was from influenza or pneumonia, in keeping with data launched Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Pneumonia, or irritation of the lungs attributable to an an infection, is a standard flu complication that may end up in hospitalization and even dying.

CDC performing director Anne Schuchat, M.D., mentioned in a media briefing on Feb. 9 that with flu-related hospitalization charges approaching document numbers, flu and pneumonia deaths are anticipated to proceed to rise over the following few weeks. 

How Flu Leads to Pneumonia

Flu could cause pneumonia in two methods. First, the influenza virus itself can infect the lungs, inflicting what’s referred to as viral pneumonia. Second, flu weakens the immune system and damages the liner of the respiratory tract, which may make it simpler for sure micro organism to contaminate the lungs and trigger bacterial pneumonia.

Experts aren’t positive precisely what proportion of people that get flu will go on to develop pneumonia, partly as a result of the signs of the 2 will be related, and there isn’t a definitive lab take a look at for pneumonia. Estimates of the variety of flu sufferers who additionally develop a bacterial an infection, for instance, vary from as little as 2 p.c to as excessive as 65 p.c, according to one analysis.

But the folks most in danger for a severe complication from flu embody younger youngsters, pregnant women, and older adults, whose immune methods are usually weaker, in addition to folks with sure underlying well being situations, similar to lung illness, heart disease, blood problems (similar to sickle cell anemia), diabetes, immune-suppressing illnesses (similar to HIV), or situations like most cancers that require immunosuppressive medication.

Here, the steps to stop and diagnose pneumonia. 

Get a Flu Shot

The greatest technique to shield towards flu-related pneumonia is to keep away from the flu itself. The CDC continues to be recommending folks get a flu shot if they haven’t already, “even this late within the season,” Schuchat says.

Although the vaccine doesn’t completely shield towards flu, it does cut back your possibilities of catching the sickness.

Also, proof means that even in the event you get the flu, the shot could reduce the severity of the sickness. That, in flip, means you will have a smaller probability of creating a secondary bacterial an infection, says Todd Rice, M.D., medical director of the medical ICU at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Consider a Pneumococcal Vaccination

Pneumococcal micro organism, which trigger some circumstances of sepsis and meningitis in addition to pneumonia, could also be chargeable for about a third of bacterial infections associated to flu.

There are at the moment two vaccines which can be really useful for some high-risk teams as safety towards all types of pneumococcal illness, together with pneumonia.

The first, Prevnar 13, protects towards 13 completely different strains of the micro organism, whereas the second, Pneumovax 23, protects towards 23 strains (there’s some overlap between the pictures).

Healthy adults below 65 in all probability don’t want them, nevertheless, as a result of they’re not at a excessive threat for pneumococcal illness. Here’s who does want a pneumococcal vaccine, in keeping with CDC tips:

Children below 2 obtain Prevnar as a part of their common vaccination schedule, one thing that began again in 2000. They ought to get a dose at 2, four, 6, and 12 to 15 months previous.

Adults 65 and older ought to obtain one dose every of Prevnar and Pneumovax, one 12 months aside. The CDC recommends getting Prevnar first, as quickly as you flip 65. (If you bought Pneumovax first, wait a 12 months and get Prevnar.) If you didn’t get it if you turned 65, ask your physician whether or not you will get the shot now; there’s no higher age restrict for receiving both vaccine.

People with underlying well being situations who’re between the ages of two and 64 ought to seek the advice of their physician about which vaccines they need to obtain and when. Recommendations differ relying in your age and illness, however people who find themselves extra weak to a flu complication due to a pre-existing well being drawback could profit from the added safety of the vaccine.

Note, nevertheless, that these vaccines aren’t good, says Elaine Tuomanen, M.D., pediatric infectious illness specialist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital who research pneumococcal vaccines. There are nearly 100 completely different identified strains of pneumococcal micro organism—many greater than are included within the vaccines. But it’s nonetheless vital for weak folks to obtain them, to cut back their possibilities of severe sickness.

Reduce Your Exposure to Bacteria

It’s a good suggestion to remain residence in case you have the flu so that you simply keep away from spreading the an infection to others. But staying residence till you are feeling effectively once more can even enable you to shield towards pneumonia, Tuomanen says. That’s as a result of the extra you’re out and about locally, the higher the percentages that you’re going to expose your self to pneumococcal micro organism by getting it in your fingers and touching your face.

Exposure to this pathogen when your immune system is already weakened by flu could make it simpler for a bacterial an infection to take maintain. And although you must all the time be diligent about washing your hands, because of this it’s particularly vital to scrub them often if you’re recovering from the flu.

Because of the injury it causes to your lungs, smoking cigarettes can even make you extra more likely to develop pneumonia.

Know the Signs, and Act Fast

The indicators of flu-related bacterial pneumonia are distinctive—you’ll normally begin recovering from the flu and feeling higher, earlier than suddenly developing a new fever and getting worse again. If that occurs, you must see your physician immediately or go to an emergency room, in keeping with the CDC. 

Bacterial pneumonia can typically be treated with antibiotics.

Delaying remedy of bacterial pneumonia can increase your threat of changing into significantly ailing, so that you shouldn’t wait in the event you unexpectedly take a flip for the more serious.

You also needs to go to the emergency room in the event you begin to have bother respiration—one other emergency signal of viral or bacterial pneumonia.

Viral pneumonia can typically be tougher to detect, as a result of it in all probability received’t embody a telltale interval of non permanent enchancment. You’ll have a typical case of flu at first, however as a substitute of getting higher after just a few days, you’ll proceed to really feel worse, your fever received’t break, and you will have bother respiration, says Almea Matanock, M.D., who research pneumococcal illness on the CDC.

Anyone who’s doubtful about whether or not he has pneumonia ought to name his physician instantly and ask whether or not he ought to are available in to be evaluated.

For youngsters below 5, adults over 65, and anybody with an underlying well being drawback, it is particularly vital to name the physician as quickly as signs seem. People in these teams could particularly profit from antiviral drugs, such as Tamiflu (oseltamivir), although a physician may determine to prescribe them to anybody experiencing a extreme flu complication, Rice says.

Antivirals could reduce the size and severity of sickness, however they work greatest when began inside 48 hours of the onset of signs.

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Consumer Reports is an unbiased, nonprofit group that works facet by facet with customers to create a fairer, safer, and more healthy world. CR doesn’t endorse services or products, and doesn’t settle for promoting. Copyright © 2018, Consumer Reports, Inc.

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