Every year, between 5% and 20% of Americans come down with a case of influenza. No one in this yearly percentage will feel good when they have the flu, how are patients meant to know when their symptoms are normal and when they necessitate medical attention?
In general, symptoms associated with a case of influenza last about one to two weeks. These symptoms typically include a sore throat, cough, fever, muscle aches, stuffed or runny nose, chills, tiredness, and headaches.
According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been between 9.3 million and 49 million cases of the flu every year since 2010. Select groups of people in these millions are at higher risk of complications from the flu:
- Children under the age of five, but especially those under two years old
- Adults older than 65
- People with weakened immune systems as a result of HIV or cancer
- People with kidney or liver disorders, diabetes, and chronic lung disease
- Pregnant women
- Anyone with asthma
- People with heart disease
The potential flu complications vary and depend on which risks apply to a patient. For instance, those with weakened immune systems and children and adults in the at-risk age groups have higher chances of catching pneumonia. A common complication of the flu, pneumonia causes up to 49,000 deaths in the United States every year. However, someone with heart disease may be more concerned about how the flu will affect their cardiac health, as the risk of having a heart attack increases six-fold in the first week of infection.
If you or a loved one are in one of these risk groups and have the flu, consider seeking medical attention sooner rather than later. You should also seek medical attention if you have difficulty breathing or pain in your chest, if you’re vomiting frequently, or if your symptoms subside and then suddenly reappear.