Local doctors discuss what to do if you get the flu

With flu season upon us, it can be difficult to tell exactly when you should make an appointment with your doctor for treatment or when an emergency room visit is more appropriate.

Doctors from local hospitals recommend a trip to the ER when symptoms are severe, including severe vomiting or dehydration.

“Some severe symptoms related to the flu in some special populations. Young children, under a year, those with several comorbidities meaning heart disease, cancer, lung problems, like COPD, diabetes, and those are typically in our elderly population as well, and also pregnancy. Those are some of our high risk categories,” says Tyler Hill, Medical Director Emergency and Urgent Care service lines with Memorial Health System.

“You can come in, they’ll check you. We have a rapid influenza test…that will check it. We’ll know right away, within the next hour or two whether or not you have the flu. Especially in the first 48 hours of feeling sick you need to come in because that’s one of the best times for the antivirals to start working,” says Dustin Spencer, resident at WVU Medicine Camden Clark Medical Center.

Urgent care is sufficient for patients experiencing symptoms that are not at a severe level.

“They are fully equipped to be able to do testing for the flu, to be able to treat for the flu, and side effects. To be able to check any other questions or concerns that you may have, but those are typically sites for your less severe symptoms,” says Dr. Hill.

A common misconception with the sickness is the nature of the infection. The flu is a virus, meaning that antibiotics will not treat the flu and can potentially make it worse. There are however, other methods of relief.

“It is a viral infection. Antibiotics will not treat this type of thing. A viral infection typically requires antiviral medication,” explains Dr. Spencer.
“We do not recommend if you simply have the flu, we do not recommend antibiotics,” says Dr. Hill.

The doctors say that handwashing, good sleep, and healthy eating are all helpful to prevent catching the flu in addition to a yearly flu shot.
“Get yearly vaccinations to help prevent against it. This year the CDC has said that roughly about 75% has been effective at treating for the current flu,” notes Spencer.