Relapse or Pneumonia?
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Relapse or Pneumonia?

Answers from the expert about flu relapses and pneumonia.

Q. I started to feel better, but then my symptoms came back with more severe coughing and chest pain. Did I relapse?

It's not unusual for the flu to lead to pneumonia. These cases of pneumonia result when bacteria normally present in the mouth, nose and throat invade the lungs. The body's defense mechanisms ordinarily prevent these bacteria from reaching the lungs, but when the defenses are weakened -- by the flu, for example -- severe pneumonia may develop. Viral or bacterial pneumonia symptoms will appear after you start feeling like you're recovering from the flu. A brief period of improvement is followed by the sudden onset of:

  • high fever
  • shaking chills
  • chest pain with each breath
  • a continuous hacking cough that produces thick, yellow-greenish-colored phlegm (sputum); or sputum with blood in it
  • extreme weakness and fatigue

You should always check with your health care professional right away if you have these symptoms.