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Tips On When To Seek Flu Emergency Care


Flu season is here, complicated this year by the H1N1 influenza virus. H1N1 has targeted the pregnant women, our young, and those with chronic illnesses. Vaccinations are becoming available, but there has been some shortages.

How do you decide when to just call your doctor or to head straight to the emergency department?

Here are some suggestions from the American College of Emergency Physicians:

If you are 18 or older and have symptoms that feel like the flu, but DO NOT HAVE a fever, cough, or sore throat it is unlikely that you need to be seen in the emergency room.

If you are 18 or older, have symptoms that feel like the flu and HAVE a fever and a cough and/or sore throat, then you need to call your physician. If in addition to the above symptoms, you (or your loved one) have any of the following warning signs, then you need to go to the emergency department:

* Do you have any difficulty breathing or chest pain?

* Are you breathing at a rate over 24 breaths per minute?

* Do you have a purple or blue discoloration of the lips?

* Are vomiting and having trouble keeping liquids down? Look for signs of dehydration such as headache, extreme thirst, dizziness when standing, and decreased urination.

* Are you experiencing confusion or change in either behavior or alertness?

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* If you have a blood pressure device, is the top number less than 100?

* Convulsions or seizure?

Answering yes to even just one of the above questions means you should go to the emergency department for evaluation.

If, however, you answer no to all the above questions, then it is time to look at other conditions you might have. If you answer yes to any of the following, then call your primary care physician or seek care at a walk-on clinic.

* Are you Age 65 or older?

* Are you pregnant"?

* Do you have a chronic health issue such as diabetes, sickle cell, emphysema, renal failure, heart disease?

* Have you had an organ transplant?

* Are you immunosuppressed (ie have HIV, take cortisone, on chemotherapy)?

For anyone who does not have one of these conditions or warning signs of severe illness, then it is best to stay home until you feel better. You may also take medicine, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen for your fever. You should rest, eat well and drink
plenty of fluids.

If you get worse, then go through the list of questions again. If you are in doubt, call your primary care doctor. If you feel that you are having an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.

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