Relapse of the Flu; Is That a Real thing?

March 5, 2017

After escaping flu during the 2015-2016 it has recently reminded many of us of the misery it can cause. The misery, however bad, is generally short lived for most; seven days being the typical course of illness, though in an unlucky few it can stretch to two weeks.

However, for medical providers it is less about the flu (no disrespect to all of you suffers), but the “relapse” which some have one to two weeks after they recover which is the big concern. That is likely not a relapse, but rather pneumonia.

Those at high risk for developing a post-influenza pneumonia are as follows: under age 2 or over 65, pregnant women or patients with underlying diabetes, heart disease or asthma.

By the time many patients are seen at Urgent Care, or by their doctor, it is too late to provide any effective treatment. The only treatment option, oseltamivir must be started within 48 hours to provide any effect and then on average it only speeds recovery by one day.

Armed with this, incomplete knowledge, some patients when they have what they believe to be a second round of flu simply stay home with their chicken soup, and over the counter meds. This unfortunately is a mistake.  Typically pneumonia symptoms are fever, cough, body aches, headache, decrease appetite (sounds like flu!).

If you are not in a high risk group (see above) the first time you experience flu symptoms and wish to rely on home remedies that is great.   The high risk patients with flu, should be seen as soon as possible after the onset of symptoms and certainly within the first 48 hours.  Do not believe the myth of “flu relapse”, that unfortunately is not the way it usually works.  For pneumonia, antibiotics have actually been shown to be better than chicken soup (sorry mom)!

David Gude, MD

 

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