Every year, millions of Americans are infected with the influenza virus. In most cases, you’ll be under the weather for a week or so, but there are times when the flu can worsen. It can weaken your immune system, making you vulnerable to other illnesses, including pneumonia. “When you are fighting the flu, your whole body shifts its energy toward fighting off the infection,” said Joshua Ordway, MD, with Franklin Family Practice, “which means it is taking soldiers away from the battle field that could be fighting off other illnesses including bacterial infections such as pneumonia.”
The flu never becomes pneumonia, but your weakened immune system makes you susceptible to contracting the respiratory illness. It’s important to know the symptoms of both illnesses so you have a better idea about what to do to care for yourself and your family.
Pay attention to cough, fever and duration of any symptoms. With the flu, there may be no cough, low-grade fever and symptoms will lessen over time. Pneumonia will produce a wet cough and higher fever, with no improvement over time.
Here are some tips to help prevent the flu and pneumonia:
- –Wash hands frequently
- –Stay hydrated
- –Get adequate sleep
- –Avoid others who are ill and stay home if you are sick
- –Don’t smoke or drink excessive amounts of alcohol
- –Talk with your physician about flu and pneumonia vaccines
While the flu may make you uncomfortable while you’re ill, pneumonia can result in lasting health effects. According to pulmonologist Sandeep Kapur, MD, with Premier Health Specialists, long-term lung conditions can be caused or negatively impacted by improperly-treated pneumonia. “When pneumonia is ignored or is not treated adequately,” he said, “it can cause lung tissue damage that predisposes [patients] to infections later in life.”
For more information on the flu or pneumonia, or to find a primary care physician, visit: www.premierhealthnet.com/doctor.