H1N1, also known as swine flu, has become a leading cause of health concern worldwide and is especially disconcerting for individuals who are in direct contact with at-risk individuals on a daily basis. If you, or a loved one, has been diagnosed with swine flu, it is important to understand not only the impact of illness on your immediate health, but also the more advanced health risks that may arise including those associated with lung disease and illness.
Bronchiectasis is the medical term used to describe the infection, quite severe, that involves the lower respiratory tract. For adults and children with H1N1, when not well managed, may develop bronchiectasis which ultimately can lead to pneumonia. While bronchiectasis is not a new illness, it is more rampant in recent months due to the widespread of H1N1 and the lack of treatment for the viral infection.
To determine if you have bronchiectasis, after being diagnosed with swine flu, it will be important to watch for some key symptoms. The symptoms of bronchiectasis that are most often seen by a patient include persistent coughing that produces a large amount of sputum. In some patients, the spitting up of blood is also not uncommon. Of course, shortness of breath and fatigue will also be noted as the lungs are impaired and unable to receive and process oxygen effectively.
Wheezing is quite common among adults with bronchiectasis and you may also notice that your fingernails and toenails change look and growth pattern. These changes are, again, attributed to lack of normal oxygen flow in the body.
Contrary to your treatment of H1N1, which typically does not include antibiotics, if you are diagnosed with bronchiectasis, your doctor will want to prescribe antibiotic therapy. In very extreme cases, respiratory therapy and even vibrating therapy will be necessary to loosen the congestion of the chest and, thereby, help with your breathing pattern. At no time, however, should you simply ignore the symptoms and continue to H1N1 diagnosis without cause for concern. When the infection has spread to the lungs, and you have developed bronchiectasis, the complications are of greater concern and, when not treated effectively, can be life threatening.
Swine flu has become a common health concern among adults and children and, in most cases of fatal outcomes, is attributed to the development of secondary health complications. Because the lungs are the primary organ of concern with H1N1 infection, be sure to see your doctor if you show any signs or symptoms of complications that could be related to bronchiectasis.
Sources: The Breathing Disorders Sourcebook, pp. 108-110.