Be Aware this Flu Season
As the holiday time of the year comes to a close, another season – one that is much less fun – is looming. This is the time of year when cases of the flu peak, and Cristina Zeretzke-Bien, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at University of Florida Health, offers the signs and symptoms of the flu so you’re prepared this season:
- Fever of 101.4 or higher
- Sore throat
- Body aches
- Difficulty breathing/shortness of breath
- Runny/stuffy nose
If you or your loved one are experiencing a combination of these symptoms, you should determine the next course of action for treatment. According to Zeretzke-Bien, the biggest thing to differentiate between when to turn to the emergency room and when to stay home is whether you or your child is a high-risk patient.
High-risk patients include:
- Children less than 2 years old
- Adults older than 65
- Patients who have chronic pulmonary disease or a neurological disease
- Patients who have cardiovascular, renal, hepatic, hematologic (including sickle cell anemia), or metabolic (including diabetes) disorders
- Patients who are immunosuppressed (including those with HIV and women who are pregnant or postpartum)
Patients who are at high risk would require closer monitoring and checking in with subspecialists for flu-like symptoms, but this doesn’t necessarily need to be done at an emergency room. As long as the patient is staying hydrated, resting, controlling fever with over-the-counter medication and is alert, oriented and doesn’t appear toxic, Zeretzke-Bien says it’s recommended to visit a primary care provider or subspecialists for a quicker, more efficient evaluation process.
If symptoms are severe, though, the patient may need to seek a higher level of care in the emergency department. The more severe symptoms, which are the most important to monitor, include dehydration or a persistent cough concerning for pneumonia. Signs of severe dehydration include dry lips, sunken eyes and no urinary output.
For more information about the flu or to track the nationwide pattern of positive cases, please visit the Centers for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm.