This is one of the worst flu seasons in recent years, with already three times as many cases this year as compared to the same point last year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Tragically, at least 30 children have died so far as a result of the flu. And the rate of people being hospitalized for the flu was at 22.7 per 100,000 people during the first week of January. For comparison, the 2014-2015 flu season—considered one of the most severe of the last 15 years—had a hospitalization rate of 29.9 per 100,000 people.
When many of us come down with the flu, we just wait it out in bed—but sometimes it might require more effort to beat. How do you know when your flu symptoms are bad enough to require an emergency room visit?
Severe vomiting could require an emergency room visit, especially if you are unable to keep anything down, as you can quickly become dehydrated.
Chest, Stomach Pressure
Severe pain and pressure in your stomach or chest are also signs that you may need emergency treatment, as well as you if you have difficulty breathing even when you aren’t exerting yourself.
Disorientation and confusion are also major red flags that you should get to the hospital right away.
You need to check your—or your child’s—temperature on a regular basis so that you can be aware how high the fever is. For adults, if a fever climbs to 103 degrees or higher, you should contact your doctor right away.
For children, it depends on the age of the child and the duration of the fever. According to the Mayo Clinic, anything above 100.4 degrees in newborns warrants a call to your doctor. For kids 6 months and older, a fever higher than 102 degrees is a cause for concern. A high fever that sticks around for more than a few days or doesn’t go down with a fever reducer warrants medical attention. A good first step is a call to your doctor, who can better advise if an ER visit is required.
Who’s Most At Risk?
It’s important to note that most otherwise healthy adults do not need to be hospitalized, or even receive medical treatment for the flu. Of more concern are vulnerable individuals, like children under the age of 5 years old, the elderly, pregnant women and people with other coexisting medical conditions like diabetes.
When it comes to kids with the flu, the signs that you should take them to the hospital include trouble breathing, bluish skin, unresponsiveness, rashes and symptoms that improve only to return worse than before. For infants, the CDC says to take them in if they are unable to eat, have trouble breathing, have no tears when crying or have significantly fewer wet diapers than usual.
For the average healthy adult who contracts the flu, rest and fluids are the best form of treatment. Your doctor might consider prescribing antiviral drugs like Tamiflu if your flu is particularly nasty, but otherwise you can rely on over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen or ibuprofen for the aches and pains and dextromethorphan if you have a cough.
And, remember, stay home! If you must go out in public while you are still contagious, then consider wearing a face mask and avoid touching people. You will remain contagious until about 7 days after you started feeling sick.