Photo Video
Flu shot. (Photo: Flickr)
Hide Caption

Influenza: When to go to the emergency room

Doctors: Flu symptoms might not warrant ER visits

a a a a
Share this story
Show Related Headlines
Related Articles
N.Ky. reports first flu death of the season
Where can you get Tamiflu around town?

CINCINNATI -- Sniffles, coughs and high temperatures send thousands to the hospital year after year.

Influenza floods emergency rooms; most of the time with non-life threatening illnesses.

Although 35 states have confirmed cases of the flu in the U.S. as of the first week of January, the FluView weekly surveillance report conducted by the CDC says Ohio has low influenza-like illness (ILI) activity for the first week of 2014. 

RELATED: Northern Kentucky reports first flu death of the season 
MORE: Tamiflu runs short through US, local availability varies

But flu season peaks in late January and February, meaning the brunt of the widespread virus may have not reached its full potential yet.

How Do I Know If I Have The Flu?

If you begin to feel ill after being in a public place, or around those who have had close contact with others, it could be a multitude of things. Many flu symptoms mirror the same symptoms of having the common cold, but ABC's Dr. Jennifer Ashton says it's not just a bad cold.

Nausea, chills, sore throat, moderate fever, headaches, runny nose and coughing are all flu symptoms and do not warrant an emergency room visit. 

If you don't think your symptoms are bad enough for the ER but you are still concerned, contact your family physician or visit a clinic. They may prescribe antibiotics if the symptoms progress into a bacterial infection.

Those that hold the "this will pass" attitude with a day or two of deliberating before symptoms either worsen or begin to get better lose out on some of the commonly available care.

Flu treatments are typically most effective for the first 48 hours after your symptoms begin. If you wait, antiviral drugs like Tamiflu and Relenza won't be as effective. At best, antiviral drugs are 70 to 90 percent effective at preventing the flu, according to the government website on the flu.

But how do you know when it's bad enough to go to the ER?

Doctors say that most flu patients should stay away from the ER. Dr. David Zich, internal medicine and emergency medicine physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, told CNN. These patients will be sent home after waiting for long periods of time because there is very little that can be done for them.

But there are cases in which conditions worsen and it is time to make a trip to the hospital. On average, 20,000 people are hospitalized each year for flu-like symptoms.

If you are having an exceptionally hard time breathing with shortness of breath, dizziness and confusion, dehydration from severe vomiting or experiencing abdominal or chest pains, doctors say it's time to go to the hospital. Complications from the flu can develop, including a bacterial "superinfection", or worse.

Certain people are a greater risk of serious flu-related complications. Children, those with chronic health conditions and those 65 years or older are susceptible to worsening conditions. 

What To Do At Home

It comes down to the basics.

Fluids are essential to avoiding the emergency room. Clear liquids are the best. Broth or soup is also suggested.

Create a sick room, to avoid spreading the illness with anyone else in your household. The Centers for Disease Control said to stay home for at least 24 hours. Hey, it's time to catch up on Netflix anyway, right?

To fight the fever, take Tylenol, ibuprofen or other over-the-counter medications. Honey and gargling salt water soothes the throat.

Wash your linens, utensils and shared spaces (such as tables and countertops) quickly after recovering.

Copyright 2014 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Print this article

Comments

Hmm... It looks like you’re not a WCPO Insider. or Subscribe now to contribute!

More Health News
Batter Up! Health, safety at a diamond near you
Batter Up! Health, safety at a diamond near you

In this week's "Ask the Nurse," spring means bats are swinging, balls are flying, and players of all ages are sliding into…

Salmonella decline seen in food poisoning report
Salmonella decline seen in food poisoning report

The government's latest report card on food poisoning shows a dip in salmonella cases but an increase in illnesses from bacteria in raw…

Study: Girls view sexual violence as normal
Study: Girls view sexual violence as normal

New research from the journal Gender & Society shows girls view sexual violence as a normal part of life.

Study: Diabetic heart attacks, strokes falling
Study: Diabetic heart attacks, strokes falling

In the midst of the diabetes epidemic, a glimmer of good news: Heart attacks, strokes and other complications from the disease are plummeting.

How safe is your favorite restaurant?
How safe is your favorite restaurant?

A WCPO analysis of 32,474 violations at 5,579 food-service facilities found ethnic restaurants have higher violation counts per inspection…

Prof: Want fewer preemies? Stop cycle of abuse
Prof: Want fewer preemies? Stop cycle of abuse

A local girl's  haunting story should serve as a wake-up call about the vulnerability poor young girls, in our city and in our…

Diabetics beware: Here come insurance companies
Diabetics beware: Here come insurance companies

Diabetics beware. Your insurance company is looking for you.

Can new face change look of health care system?
Can new face change look of health care system?

Abruptly on the spot as the new face of "Obamacare," Sylvia Mathews Burwell faces steep challenges, both logistical and political.

Dieters move past calories, food makers follow
Dieters move past calories, food makers follow

Obsessing over calories alone has left dieters with an empty feeling.

VIDEO: Race day can bring injuries to runners
VIDEO: Race day can bring injuries to runners

Thousands of runners are getting ready for the 16th annual Flying Pig Marathon . They’ve run countless miles and worked for months.…