Concerned about your flu symptoms? Find a TriStar ER near you. If your symptoms are less severe, find a doctor to get further care.
Are Good at Hiding
Although it is possible to contract the flu virus at any time of the year, doctors’ offices and emergency rooms see an influx of patients with flu-like symptoms during the months of October through May. The flu usually isn’t an emergency and generally goes away after a few days of rest. However, there are certain groups of patients (like infants and the elderly) that have a higher risk of developing complications. Those with severe flu symptoms should seek immediate medical care.
So, how do you know when your symptoms are serious enough to visit the ER?
Distinguishing between the cold and flu
First, try to determine whether you have a severe cold or the flu. Because they share symptoms like runny nose, coughing and body weakness, it can be hard to tell the difference between the two. For the most part, however, cold symptoms are milder.
When the flu requires emergency medical care
Although the ER should only be utilized by those who are very sick, there are severe flu symptoms that may warrant a trip to the ER.
If you’re in a high-risk group and are experiencing symptoms like fever, chills or body aches, seek medical care immediately. It’s vital for at-risk groups to receive urgent care to avoid potential complications, like hospitalization, pneumonia, bronchitis — and even death.
High-risk groups include pregnant women, people over age 65 or those with a weakened immune system.
Severe Flu Symptoms
Even if you’re not in a high-risk group, it’s important to watch for severe symptoms and seek immediate emergency care when you or a family member exhibits the following:
- Difficulty breathing
- shortness of breath
- Severe chest pain
- Severe stomach pain
- Severe or persistent vomiting and nausea
- Sudden, severe dizziness or ongoing dizzy spells
For pregnant women, other emergency symptoms include a high fever that doesn’t respond to medications and feeling decreased or no movement of their baby.
Severe Flu Symptoms in Children
It may be more difficult to detect flu symptoms in infants and children, especially if they don’t yet talk or have trouble communicating how they feel. Be on the lookout for:
- A bluish tint to the skin
- Extreme irritability
- Not drinking enough fluids, or in infants, lack of tears when crying or fewer wet diapers than usual
- Rapid breathing, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- The inability to eat or drink
The CDC estimates between 140,000 and 710,000 people have been hospitalized for the flu since 2010.
If you or a loved one are treated for flu in the ER, doctors may administer fluids to help with dehydration. In some cases, antiviral medications can be used to combat the virus and reduce the risk of complications.
Are you Fluent in Flu?
From vaccine knowledge to flu facts and treatment options – do you know how to fend off the flu? Take the quiz below to test your expertise and get more information from our emergency room doctors.
Steps you can take to prevent the flu
You can avoid potentially dangerous illness by taking a few simple precautions during each flu season.
Get Your Flu Vaccine
The best thing you can do to prevent contracting the flu virus is to receive your flu vaccine each year. Despite myths and misconceptions surrounding the flu vaccine, being vaccinated does not cause the flu! Vaccines contain an inactivated virus, or components that resemble the flu virus, so your immune system is ready when it encounters the real thing.
The second-best step? Practice proper handwashing. Scrub the fronts and backs of your hands, between your fingers and underneath your nails for at least 20 seconds, or about the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday.” If you don’t have access to soap and water, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
Already have the flu?
If you’ve already contracted the flu, do yourself and those around you a favor and stay home! Prevent the spread of the virus by avoiding contact with others, even if you have to skip household chores, work or school for a few days.
If you are experiencing severe flu symptoms, it's important to be seen at an ER right away.
As always, our expert ER providers are ready to care for you 24/7. Find a TriStar ER. In the event of an emergency, call 911.
As always, our expert ER providers are ready to care for you 24/7.
Do you have severe flu symptoms? Find a TriStar ER near you.