When flu becomes pneumonia

Once a child is fighting the flu, many parents are worried if it unexpectedly gets worse when it is believed to get better. Always bear in mind that pneumonia is a serious infection of the lungs that often starts after an upper respiratory infection such as the flu or common cold. The symptoms are quite similar, thus it is often difficult to set them apart but there are certain things to watch out for that indicates that the flu has progressed into pneumonia. A doctor should be consulted as soon as possible if any of these symptoms are present.

Fever and chills

Both pneumonia and flu can come with high fever and chills. Remember that it typically occurs abruptly in both cases. Nevertheless, the chills are more severe with pneumonia along with fever that is slightly elevated up to 105 degrees F and chattering teeth.

The fever that accompanies flu usually lasts only 3-4 days but the fever lingers with pneumonia. In case the child has flu, he/she starts to feel better after 1-2 days before being struck with another wave of fever that might be pneumonia.


The child might have been coughing a lot with the flu but with pneumonia, it is almost present. In most cases, the cough is severe, hacking and dry and often accompanied by chest pain or tightness. The symptoms typically worsen after the initial 12-36 hours.

Labored or rapid breathing

If a child has pneumonia, the child will have difficulty breathing or a feeling that there is not enough air and this can occur abruptly. Oftentimes, this is the only symptom of pneumonia that is observable, thus it is vital in determining whether the child has the condition. The indications include wheezing or grunting sounds while breathing and an unusually fast speed of breathing or strenuous breathing. When it comes to labored breathing, the rib muscles appear to retract, drawing inward with every breath. In addition, there is also rapid pulse rate.


Always bear in mind that the flu triggers severe aches and pain in the body or head.

Chest or abdominal pain

Always bear in mind that the flu triggers severe aches and pain in the body or head. As for pneumonia, it is usually concentrated in several areas. The child can experience piercing pain or tightness in the chest. In case the infection is lower in the lungs, it can cause abdominal pain.

Vomiting or appetite loss

Children oftentimes vomit or have diarrhea when the child has flu. When it comes to pneumonia, vomiting is likely to occur as well as loss of appetite. As for older children, they become extremely picky about their food or refuse to eat while infants start to feed poorly. It is not advisable to force the child to eat but encourage drinking fluids especially if fever is present.

Bluish lips and nails

In case the child ends up with a serious case of pneumonia, the lips and fingernails can end up bluish or gray in color due to the lack of oxygen in the lungs

Diminished activity

Even though the flu will make the child fatigued or weak, pneumonia can affect his/her energy only slightly or moderately. In most cases, the child has less than his/her usual level of activity, but can increase from what he/she was capable to do when flu was present.


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