Hospital visit for flu when necessary

January 10th, 2014

When you suspect that you or your child has the flu, when should you seek treatment at a hospital?

The flu often starts with symptoms that may include headache, fatigue, sore throat, cough, chills, runny or stuffy nose and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. Some patients will have a fever, but not everyone according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Red Cross.

People who have mild symptoms likely can be treated by their primary care physician, rather than at the emergency department. But there are several instances that should prompt patients to consider coming to the hospital for evaluation and treatment, said Dr. Richard Robinson, chairman of emergency medicine at JPS Health Network.

If your symptoms get worse or your doctor’s treatment does not seem to be working, that is likely something that needs immediate medical attention, Robinson says.

And a patient with a fever (a temperature greater than 100.5 degrees) who is also experiencing shortness of breath and mental confusion should seek medical attention at the emergency department, Robinson said.

“Just because a person has a fever doesn’t mean they have to come to the emergency department,” Robinson said. “In the setting of a significant fever a patient that is fairly short of breath and confused, really should come to the emergency department and be evaluated. ”

Also some people have a greater risk of serious flu-related complications. They include young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with certain long-term medical conditions or compromised immune systems. “People falling into one of these groups should consider early evaluation by their primary care physician, neighborhood clinic, or the emergency department,” reports Robinson.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends seeking medical attention promptly if you have certain “emergency warning signs.”

For children:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

In addition to the signs above, for infants:

  • Being unable to eat
  • Has trouble breathing
  • Has no tears when crying
  • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal

For adults:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

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