For Most with Flu, Home is the Best Medicine

January 9th, 2018

For most people, flu symptoms don’t warrant a trip to the emergency room, doctors said as the number of cases in North Texas continued to surge.

At John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, the number of patients with positive flu tests in January rose to 187 on Tuesday, up from 103 on Friday.

In the absence of risk factors for complications or signs of a medical emergency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says most people can take care of themselves at home, avoiding contact with other people and drinking plenty of fluids to stay well-hydrated.

“Most people with the flu do not need to come to the emergency room, urgent care or even my clinic,” said Chief Family Medicine Resident Rebecca Newton, MD. “Most people with the flu should stay home” and focus on how to stay OUT of the hospital, which means rest and lots of liquids. “One of the best ways to stay out of the hospital is drink water,” Newton said.

For those with risk factors for complications, it is recommended that they contact their primary care provider, who may prescribe an anti-viral drug such as Tamiflu to cut the virus short. People considered at risk for complications, which can include pneumonia, include children younger than 5 years old and people older than 65, people with existing conditions such as asthma, heart disease and diabetes, and those with weakened immune systems.

During times of extreme demand, such as the peak of a severe flu season, wait times in emergency rooms typically rise for people whose conditions are not life-threatening. Patients with life-threatening injuries or illness are seen first, making the emergency room a potentially time-consuming place to go for routine medical care.

Signs of an emergency — time to go to an emergency room — include:

Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen

Sudden dizziness

Confusion

Severe or persistent vomiting

Flu symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

“All of these mean ‘ready to come to the ER,” said Newton. “Otherwise, stay home until you feel better.”


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