After getting sick with the flu, most people feel back to normal a week later.
But sometimes, there can be health complications that extend beyond the initial infection.
If you experience any severe or unusual symptoms during or following an influenza infection, contact your doctor or urgent care for medical attention.
Here are five potential side effects that may occur in the weeks or months after catching the flu.
Increased Risk for Heart Attacks and Stroke
Studies have shown that an increased risk of heart attack or stroke can occur within the first week after a person has been diagnosed with the flu.
That doesn’t exactly mean that the flu causes heart attacks and strokes. Instead, the infection (and your immune system’s response to it) may worsen existing heart conditions and trigger a cardiovascular event. Additionally, people living with heart disease are much more likely to be hospitalized or have serious complications when they contract the flu.
Contact emergency services immediately if you experience any symptoms of a heart attack or stroke.
Pneumonia and Other Secondary Infections
Our immune systems are usually pretty good at fighting off the influenza virus. But this fight can drain your immune system of its resources, leaving you vulnerable to other infections and additional complications.
Pneumonia is the most common secondary infection associated with the flu. It’s a serious lung infection that can potentially be life-threatening. Other possible secondary infections include bronchitis, ear infections, and bacterial sinus infections.
Muscle Aches and Joint Pain
When suffering from the flu, many people experience muscle aches and joint pain.
Your immune system activates an inflammatory response to combat the virus and begin healing injured tissues. This inflammation can cause pain and discomfort in your muscles and joints that can persist for weeks or even months after your initial infection.
If the pain is severe, long-lasting, or preventing you from doing everyday activities, consult with your doctor for further evaluation and treatment options.
Weakness and Fatigue
It’s normal to feel weak and tired while your body is fighting off the flu virus, but sometimes this fatigue can carry on for weeks or even months following your initial infection.
While it is important to take rests and give your body time to recuperate, you also need to make sure you’re staying active with walks, gentle stretches, and other low-intensity movements throughout the day.
This is especially important for older adults who are more prone to muscle weakness and falls. A flu infection can trigger a downward spiral of physical inactivity, muscle degeneration, and increased risk of falls and fractures.
Brain Fog and Malaise
Illnesses can also affect your cognitive and emotional health.
You might have trouble thinking, remembering, or making decisions. You may struggle to concentrate or understand normal everyday conversations.
The flu might also bring on feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression, as well as a general sense of apathy and malaise.
These cognitive, emotional, and physical symptoms can persist for weeks or months after your initial infection. If you’re struggling with any of these issues, reach out to your healthcare provider for assistance.