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When to Seek Emergency Medical Help for Flu

Jan 30, 2015

The flu virus continues to spread across the U.S., with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) closely tracking the number of confirmed cases and urging stringent precautions to minimize its impact. Evanston Regional continues to see flu-symptomatic patients in the emergency room and numerous patients have been admitted for treatment of flu-related complications.

While most people will be able to endure the flu’s effects on their bodies and recover, others are at high risk for suffering complications and needing emergency intervention. Individuals at a higher risk include babies and children, the elderly, those with compromised immune systems, and individuals with lung disease – such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

“Beyond feeling miserable, flu can develop into something much more serious, particularly for individuals who are at higher risk,” said Jeff Hill, an Emergency Medicine physician. “It’s important for these individuals to be monitored closely so they receive timely medical help if needed.”

Unlike a cold, the flu typically comes on suddenly. The most common symptoms are fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue and vomiting and diarrhea.

If you suspect you have the flu virus, the CDC recommends seeking care from your doctor or an urgent care clinic, where you can be tested and receive a prescription for antiviral medication to minimize the intensity and duration of your symptoms. These medications work best when taken within 48 hours of becoming ill, but can still be beneficial when given later in the course of illness.

When you or someone for whom you’re caring experiences any of the following symptoms – the CDC recommends seeking help from the closest emergency department:


  • Trouble breathing
  • No tears when crying
  • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal


  • 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
  • Symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash


  • 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 worse cough

“Flu can become deadly, so it’s important to act promptly if these symptoms appear,” said Dr. Hill. “It’s still not too late to get a flu shot this year, which can lessen your chances of getting sick.” For more information on the flu, visit the special flu section, “The Flu and You” at To find a primary care doctor visit the “Find a Doctor” link on the home page or call (307) 789-WELL (9355).