Going straight to the emergency room for mild flu symptoms can spread the infection and tie up resources for people with more serious ailments, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
Severe symptoms like shortness of breath or confusion still call for emergency treatment, and high-risk patients like pregnant women, the elderly, young children and the immune-compromised should be monitored carefully. But a news release from the OHA noted that most healthy people with mild symptoms like a sore throat or slight fever recover by resting and drinking plenty of fluids.
Those with non-urgent symptoms should stay home, or call their primary care physician if they think they need medical care.
“Emergency departments are busy, and people with mild symptoms who want to be seen can protect others and avoid long waits in the ER by calling their primary care provider before heading to the hospital,” the news release stated.
Severe symptoms in adults include shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting, purple or blue lips or seizures. Children should be seen urgently if they have fast or troubled breathing, bluish skin or lips, are not waking up or interacting, become so irritable they do not want to be held, have a fever with a rash or get better but then come back with a fever or cough. Infants should get medical help right away if they are unable to eat, have a hard time breathing, do not have tears when they cry or have many fewer wet diapers than normal.
Flu cases have spiked in Oregon in recent weeks, with the H3N2 strain of influenza A accounting for most of the cases reported by laboratories.
The Oregon Health Authority offered these additional tips for flu season:
•Get the flu vaccine. It’s the most effective way to prevent the flu.
•Understand the severity of flu symptoms and know when it’s OK to just stay home.
If you are at high risk for severe illness contact your health care provider with concerns.
•Stay home and limit contact with others while sick.
•Cough or sneeze into a tissue then throw the tissue away.
•Wash your hands with soap and water frequently.
•Avoid touching your nose, eyes or mouth and avoid getting coughed or sneezed on.
•Clean and disinfect objects or surfaces that may have flu germs on them.