According to the CDC’s Flu View Activity Update, influenza activity increased sharply again this week. The number of states reporting widespread activity went from 36 to 46 with Missouri reporting a high activity level for influenza like illnesses (ILI). With cases of influenza on the rise it’s important to know when and where to get appropriate care and how to stop the spread of the flu.
The CDC says most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get sick with flu symptoms, in most cases, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care.
Although flu symptoms can seem unbearable at times, a trip to the emergency department is typically not necessary. The emergency room should be used for people who are very sick.
“The majority of flu cases do not need to be seen in an ED” says Dr. Jeff Ehmke, Emergency Department Medical Director at CRMC. “A primary care, urgent or quick care clinic can provide care more efficiently and at a lower cost. What’s more, seeking treatment outside the ED for flu-like symptoms reduces congestion when traumas or patients with very serious conditions present in the ED.”
“Additionally, coming to the ED when you are under the weather, but not enough for emergent care can expose you and your loved ones to communicable illnesses including influenza.”
If, however, you have symptoms of flu and are in a high risk group, or are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider (doctor, physician assistant, etc.).
Certain people are at high risk of serious flu-related complications (including young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions). This is true both for seasonal flu and novel flu virus infections. If you are in a high risk group and develop flu symptoms, it’s best for you to contact your doctor early in your illness. Remind them about your high risk status for flu. CDC recommends that people at high risk for complications should get antiviral treatment as early as possible, because benefit is greatest if treatment is started within 2 days after illness onset.
If you have the emergency warning signs of flu sickness, you should go to the emergency room. If you get sick with flu symptoms and are at high risk of flu complications or you are concerned about your illness, call your health care provider for advice.
What are the emergency warning signs of flu sickness?
- 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
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
Are there medicines to treat the flu?
Yes. There are drugs your doctor may prescribe for treating the flu called “antivirals.” These drugs can make you better faster and may also prevent serious complications.
How long should I stay home if I’m sick?
CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine. You should stay home from work, school, travel, shopping, social events, and public gatherings.
What should I do while I’m sick?
Stay away from others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. If you must leave home, for example to get medical care, wear a facemask if you have one, or cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Wash your hands often to keep from spreading flu to others. If you have flu like symptoms, do not visit patients in the hospital and avoid contact with those in the high risk categories, including the elderly and very young.
What are alternatives to getting care in the Emergency Department?
If you need to seek non emergent medical care you can call your primary care provider. For the times when you are unable to get an appointment or you don’t have a primary care provider an urgent or quick care clinic can meet your needs.
Capital Region Physicians operates three urgent care clinics across Jefferson City and a quick care clinic located in Hy-Vee. And at our urgent care clinics you can hold your place in line, go to click here to schedule an appointment online.