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Flu: Signs of Bacterial Infection

Topic Overview

A bacterial infection may develop following infection with viral influenza. Signs of a bacterial infection include:

  • Ear pain that lasts more than 24 hours or severe ear pain that lasts longer than 1 hour.
  • A sore throat that lasts longer than 2 to 3 days despite home treatment and does not "act" like a cold.
  • Sinus pain that persists despite 2 to 4 days of home treatment, especially if nasal drainage is colored rather than clear and fever is also present.
  • Nasal drainage that changes from clear to colored after 5 to 7 days of flu, while other symptoms (such as sinus pain or fever) are getting worse.
  • A cough that lingers more than 7 to 10 days after other symptoms have cleared, especially if it is bringing up mucus (productive).
  • Yellow, green, rust-colored, or bloody mucus that is coughed up from the lungs, especially while other symptoms are getting worse. Mucus coughed up from the lungs is a more serious symptom than mucus that has drained down the back of the throat (postnasal drip).

These infections may sometimes need treatment with antibiotics.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Christine Hahn, MD - Epidemiology
Last Revised July 9, 2012

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