As many of us know, the flu season can run anywhere from October through May. Influenza viruses tend to hit us the hardest during the winter months (December through March), with the CDC identifying February as the peak of flu season.
When many of us come down with the flu, we just wait it out in bed — but sometimes it might require more effort to beat. How do you know when your flu symptoms are bad enough to require an emergency room visit?
Here are some symptoms to look out for:
Chest Or Stomach Pressure Or Difficulty Breathing
Severe pain and pressure in your stomach or chest are also signs that you may need emergency treatment, as well as you if you have difficulty breathing even when you aren’t exerting yourself.
Confusion Or Listlessness
Disorientation and confusion are also major red flags that you should get to the hospital right away. If you or your affected family member develops a bluish skin color, becomes hard to rouse or otherwise unresponsive, those are all signs you should seek medical attention.
You need to check your—or your child’s—temperature on a regular basis so that you can be aware how high the fever is. For adults, if a fever climbs to 103 degrees or higher, you should contact your doctor right away.
Also look out for a fever accompanied by a rash, according to the CDC.
For children, it depends on the age of the child and the duration of the fever. According to the Mayo Clinic, anything above 100.4 degrees in newborns warrants a call to your doctor. For kids 6 months and older, a fever higher than 102 degrees is a cause for concern. A high fever that sticks around for more than a few days or doesn’t go down with a fever reducer warrants medical attention. A good first step is a call to your doctor, who can better advise if an ER visit is required.
Severe vomiting could require an emergency room visit, especially if you are unable to keep anything down, as you can quickly become dehydrated.
Who’s Most At Risk?
It’s important to note that most otherwise healthy adults do not need to be hospitalized, or even receive medical treatment for the flu. Of more concern are vulnerable individuals, like children under the age of 5 years old, the elderly, pregnant women and people with other coexisting medical conditions like diabetes.
When it comes to kids with the flu, the signs that you should take them to the hospital include trouble breathing, bluish skin, unresponsiveness, rashes and symptoms that improve only to return worse than before. For infants, the CDC says to take them in if they are unable to eat, have trouble breathing, have no tears when crying or have significantly fewer wet diapers than usual.
For the average healthy adult who contracts the flu, rest and fluids are the best form of treatment. Your doctor might consider prescribing antiviral drugs like Tamiflu if your flu is particularly nasty, but otherwise you can rely on over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen or ibuprofen for the aches and pains and dextromethorphan if you have a cough.
And, remember, stay home! If you must go out in public while you are still contagious, then consider wearing a face mask and avoid touching people. You will remain contagious until about 7 days after you started feeling sick.
Have you or someone you know had to be hospitalized due to complications from the flu?