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Death from Flu: Possibilities, Facts, and More

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Mar 31, 2023

Death from Flu: Possibilities, Facts, and More

Influenza or flu, as it is commonly known, is a respiratory condition that attacks the nose, throat, and lungs. It is a viral and infectious condition that is quite similar to the common cold. However, while the symptoms are quite similar, the effects are different, and so are the causes. While the common cold can be caused by any single or a combination of over 200 viruses, the flu can be caused by specific viruses, for which seasonal vaccines are developed. What’s more, the flu can lead to more serious issues such as pneumonia, which can be fatal as well. Thus, is death from flu possible? It is if it is left untreated or ignored.

Let’s find out more.

What is Flu?

death from flu

A flu is an illness that affects the whole respiratory system and can be deadly in the case of people who fall into high-risk groups. These are babies below the age of 2, people who are older than 65 years of age, pregnant women, immunocompromised people, and the likes. Its symptoms include:

  1. Fever
  2. Chills
  3. Headache
  4. Fatigue
  5. Muscle ache
  6. Runny nose
  7. Congestion
  8. Cough

There are times when a person may be asymptomatic, particularly when the flu is just starting. However, lack of symptoms does not make flu less dangerous. It is still infectious and the virus can still be passed on to another person.

Death by flu is not common, but not unheard of either. Any condition which affects your vital organs, if left untreated, can lead to serious consequences, and the flu is no different.

Death From Flu: Is it Possible?

Yes, it is. However, the biggest issue here is that people often do not take influenza seriously. Rather, there are times when they mistake it for a common cold. That’s a common mistake, given the symptoms are quite similar.

However, one has to understand the fact that while the common cold seldom renders you inactive and extremely lethargic, flu does that. The symptoms of flu are far more serious leading to a fatigued state wherein a person does not feel like going about his or her daily life.

This fine line of difference is what needs to be known. Otherwise, the misdiagnosis can lead to death.

Death From Flu: How is it Possible?

Flu, if left untreated or ignored, can worsen other conditions, or it can develop into more serious conditions such as the following:


This happens when infection reaches the lungs. It can either be only one lung, or both. It can be caused by flu viruses, or bacteria and fungi.

This infection further creates inflammation in the lungs which affects a person’s breathing patterns. Pneumonia is a highly contagious disease. Its symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough with phlegm
  • Breathlessness
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Headache

Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive Heart Failure or CHF is a condition that can worsen due to flu. This develops when ventricles are not in the condition to pump enough blood to the body, which leads to fluids and blood going back to lungs, liver, abdomen, and lower body. Fluid build-up around the heart can lead to heart failure, resulting in a life-threatening incident.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD is actually a group of lung diseases that are progressive in nature, the most common ones being chronic bronchitis and emphysema. While the former causes narrowing of bronchial tubes and inflammation, the latter destroys lungs’ air sacs.

This eventually leads to building up of mucus. COPD mostly happens due to tobacco consumption and happens over a substantial period. However, this too can culminate from flu.

All of the aforementioned conditions can worsen with simple flu. Although these can happen independently as well, it is important to know how flu can play an important and fatal part here. If unchecked, all these conditions can cause death or at least a significant amount of damage.

Thus, it is important to pay attention to the severity of your condition if you are suffering from flu.

Death From Flu: Life-Threatening Symptoms to Look Out For

While we know the symptoms of the normal flu, when it develops into something serious, the symptoms evolve too. It is important to be observant and notice these.

The symptoms, however, differ in babies, children, and adults. Here’s a look at how it affects all age groups.

Life-threatening symptoms of flu in adults:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling disoriented
  • Severe vomiting
  • Severe pain in the abdomen
  • Chest pain

Life-threatening symptoms of flu in babies:

  • Seizures
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • In children who are younger than 3 years, a temperature of more than 37.8 degrees Celsius is alarming
  • Eating issues
  • Inability to produce tears
  • Urine levels go down

Apart from these, there are additional symptoms in children that should be noted. In case these occur, immediate medical attention should be called for:

  • Blue tinge to skin, face, or chest
  • Difficulty while waking up
  • Dehydration due to scarce water drinking
  • Rapid breathing
  • Stiff neck

Cases with such symptoms may cause death. Hence it should be looked out for.

Death From Flu: Who are the Ones at High Risk?

We already know that pregnant women, immunocompromised people, the elderly, and younger ones are more vulnerable to flu. However, there is a more detailed breakdown or list of the ones who are at greater risk to suffer death caused by flu. It is important to be aware of the following, as this covers quite a wide range of people.

Following are the people who are at high risk of dying from flu:

  • People who live in close quarters
  • People living with AIDS or HIV
  • Immune-compromised people
  • Pregnant women
  • Women who are two weeks postpartum
  • People with a BMI of 40 or more
  • Chronic illness patients
  • Adolescents who take salicylate-based medicines
  • Children under the age of 2
  • Adults over the age of 65

Key Takeaways

Death from flu is a possibility which not many consider given flu is not considered a serious illness. However, one should be aware of all the possibilities, symptoms, and effects. This is important so that fatal symptoms can be noticed on time to seek adequate medical attention.

Did we miss any facts about it? Do you know anything more? Let us know in the comments. 

Learn more about influenza here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Jezreel Esguerra, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Mar 31, 2023

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