woman lying down on a pillow sick with the flu
Blog January 14, 2013

Doctors Advise, Stay Out of Work, School if You Have The Flu

U.S. Emergency Rooms Inundated With Flu Patients

Call in sick! That is the advice from the nation's emergency physicians if you happen to have flu-like symptoms. Doctors suggest it's one of the best ways to help prevent the spread of this year's particularly aggressive national flu outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that at least 40 states are currently dealing with a moderate to serious flu outbreak.

"Even with flu-like symptoms, many people still try to go to work, school or other activities," said Dr.Andrew Sama, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). "This is only making a bad situation worse, spreading the virus and getting more people sick. Not to mention, you are putting yourself at greater risk of worsening your current health situation such as developing pneumonia."  Doctors advise that you rest at home until you start to feel better.

ACEP contacted emergency physicians throughout the country to get an idea of what they are experiencing in their emergency departments. The general consensus is that they are seeing significantly higher numbers of patients with flu symptoms compared to this time in past years. The large increase in patients is adding to an already busy emergency care system and is causing more admitted patients to be boarded in emergency departments because there are not enough inpatient hospital beds to provide for them.

Those at highest risk of flu include the elderly, pregnant women and people with special medical needs. See your doctor or go to the nearest emergency department if you feel you need to go.

Typical symptoms include fever, sore throat, runny nose and upper respiratory symptoms, headache, fatigue, and muscle or body aches. To get over it quickly, doctors advise that you drink plenty of liquids, get rest, and if diagnosed early take antiviral medication.

Adults should seek emergency care if they are experiencing any of these symptoms:

  • 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 increased cough

Specifically for 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 that improve, but then return with fever and increased cough
  • Fever with a rash

In addition to all of the symptoms above, an infant who as any of the following signs should get emergency care:

  • Irritability/ being inconsolable
  • Inability to eat or drink
  • Trouble breathing
  • No tears when crying
  • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
  • Persistent fevers

It is not too late to get the flu vaccine if you haven't done so already. Also, it's important to take routine preventative measures like washing your hands regularly, wiping down work stations and covering your nose and mouth when you sneeze and cough.  

"Emergency physicians are very experienced when it comes to dealing with infectious diseases like the flu," said Dr. Sama. "It's important for everyone to step up and help push the flu back.  The little things can make a big difference when keeping you and those around you healthy."


SOURCE: American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)