You’ve got the flu: Is the Emergency Department for you?

when to come to the ed with flu and when to stay awayThe flu outbreak across the state is hitting much earlier – and far harder – than expected.*

If you’ve come down with influenza, how do you know when you should see your primary care provider or if you should go to the emergency room?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a flu guidance page on its website to help you determine whether you should head to the emergency room or your doctor. In short, the emergency room should only be used by those who are very sick and are exhibiting emergency warning signs, including:

In 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

Looking for a same day appointment with a primary care provider? Check out TMCOne.

In 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, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:

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

Some people are at much higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu than others.

They include:

  • pregnant women or new mothers who have given birth in the past two weeks
  • children, especially those under 2 years old
  • adults over 65
  • people whose body mass index is over 40
  • people with diabetes
  • anyone with a medical condition that compromises his or her immune system

“The important thing to do is to prevent the flu in the first place,” said Cynthia Carsten, interim director of TMC’s Emergency Department. “Wash your hands. Avoid close contact with people who have the flu and get a flu shot – and particularly if you are in a high risk group. If you’re sick, stay home if you can.”

*Arizona Department of Health Services Influenza Summary.

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