5 Flu Problems That Can Occur After You Get Over the Flu + What to Do

8 minute read

It’s been a long, hard road, but you’re finally over the flu. Hopefully, you can remember to get your flu shot next year, but at least it’s all over for now.

Except, is it? Even if you feel better and are ready to resume your life, the flu might not be entirely a thing of the past. In fact, some of the repercussions of having the flu can crop up quite a bit later and can even be permanent.

What Is the Flu?

The flu is a term that’s used to categorize a respiratory infection produced by influenza viruses. Since it’s not just a single virus, and the “bug” evolves and mutates, you need to get a flu shot every year.

Some of your flu symptoms may include vomiting and diarrhea, but you’re more likely to experience fever, cough, sore throat, a runny nose, generalized muscle ache, and fatigue.

Most people who get the flu will recover in as little as a few days to possibly a couple weeks. Others will recover from the flu and find that they’ve developed a secondary illness or that they’re having other effects that are longer lasting than expected.

Long-Term Effects of the Flu

It’s key to remember that each person responds differently to the flu and recovery and each flu strain is different.

You might walk away from your bout with the flu feeling as good as you did before your run-in. Or, you might find that the flu wasn’t so kind to you and left you with some future complications or health concerns. These include:

Loss of strength: There’s a good chance that you expected this. The flu can feel like you’ve been hit by a truck and your body worked really hard to recover. It may take a long time to fully get your strength and your endurance back to peak condition.

For elderly patients or people with chronic illness, this can be an even bigger hurdle.

Pneumonia: Pneumonia or other lung infections can be complications of the flu and part of the process. But it’s not uncommon to develop pneumonia after your standard 7-10 days of flu symptoms.

If you ever feel like the flu came back a week or two after it left, this could be pneumonia. It’s advisable that you see your doctor to be treated appropriately.  

Increased risk of heart attack or stroke: There have been studies that link the flu with these two health concerns. The theory is that the inflammatory response the body has to the flu can prompt the development of atherosclerosis.

But the most significant findings are probably from an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine which states your risk of having a heart attack during the week following your flu diagnosis is six times greater than it was the year before or than it will be the year after.

Myocarditis: This is rare, but myocarditis can develop after a cold or the flu. It’s an inflammation in the heart muscle tissue and can rapidly become very severe. Medical help should be sought immediately if you feel your post-flu symptoms point to this.

Reye’s Syndrome: This is usually caused by the combination of a viral illness, like the flu, and taking aspirin to manage the symptoms. It’s very rare and affects children and teens.

To avoid Reye’s Syndrome, aspirin should be avoided when you have a viral illness, such as the flu, a cold, or chicken pox. Natural painkillers may be able to help.

Ways to Protect Yourself From the Flu

The best way to avoid any complications from the flu is obviously not to get the flu in the first place. But how to you avoid getting sick when everyone around you seems to have some kind of illness?

Flu shot: The flu shot is probably the most obvious way to guard yourself from getting the flu or reduce the severity of your symptoms. It can also make it less likely you’ll pass the flu on to others, an essential part of “herd immunity” that protects those with weakened immune systems, children, and the elderly from contracting what could be for them a life-threatening illness.

Germ control: Wash your hands as much as possible during flu season. If you touch any communal surface, it’s probably time to wash. If you can’t wash immediately, then do your best to avoid touching your face, especially your mouth and eyes.

A flu virus can live for about 24 hours without a human host. That means if a sick person sneezes on a doorknob and you use that doorknob 23 hours later, you could still pick up their flu virus.

Wash communal surfaces, wash your hands, and try to stay at least 3-feet away from anyone who is coughing and/or sneezing.

Don’t share food: It seems obvious that you don’t want to share a fork with someone who is sick, but there’s a bit of an incubation period between when someone gets the flu and when you notice the symptoms.

During cold and flu season, your best option is not to share food, eating utensils, beverages, plates, etc. with anyone.

| Related: Try These 11 At-Home Flu Remedies for Natural Relief |

Exercise and eat right: If you want to boost your immune system, then living a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways you can help yourself. By sticking even more diligently to your good habits during cold and flu season, you can reap the rewards by staying healthy.   

Relax and sleep: Make de-stressing and a restful night’s sleep a priority. Stress and lack of sleep beat up your immune system and leave you vulnerable. Getting plenty of sleep and giving yourself permission to relax is an easy way to build your defenses and you’ll feel great too.

If You Get the Flu

If you suspect that you have the flu, in most cases, you should stay home to avoid giving other people your virus and rest. Staying hydrated and eating healthy foods that you can tolerate will help you fight back. But some people need more care.

| Related: These 10 Immune-Boosting Juices Help Fight Off the Flu |

Medical help for the flu should be sought if you’re in a high-risk group due to age, pregnancy, or pre-existing medical conditions. If you feel like the flu you have is much more severe and aggressive than it should be, you would also benefit from getting a professional medical opinion.

The Bottom Line

If you believe your bout with the flu is over then you’re suddenly feeling sick again or believe you have a complication, it’s best to see your healthcare provider to rule out any serious issues that may have been brought about by the flu.

No one likes the flu, and getting the flu shot is recommended by doctors for anyone who possibly can get one. If you do catch the flu, it’s important to know what you could be in for.

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