Huntington Hospital Emergency Dept. Doctor: What Should You Do if You Get the Flu

Monday, December 10, 2018 | 3:24 pm

Late last month, Los Angeles County health officials confirmed the first flu death of this year’s season for the County. Eleven others had died throughout California.

Officials urged the public to get a flu shot.

“I would like to remind everyone that even if you’re healthy, you can still get seriously sick from the flu and spread the illness to others,” Dr. Muntu Davis, a Los Angeles County health officer, said in a prepared statement at the time. “Immunization is the best method to protect yourself and reduce the likelihood of spreading flu to others in your community.”

But what should a person do if he or she contracts the flu?

Here are tips and insights from Huntington Hospital Emergency Department physician Brandon Lew, DO. While these remarks are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, nonetheless the information is important and useful.

Prevention is ideal, but once you or a family member are experiencing flu-like symptoms it’s important to know your options — and the ER should not necessarily be your first choice.

The flu shot, hand washing and avoiding sick people are all important preventative measures during flu season. But when you get sick, knowing options for treatment is important. Because the flu can make you feel so awful, it’s not unusual for people to think they need to go to the emergency room for treatment. However, our Emergency Room is the only one of its kind in Pasadena, and as a Level II Trauma Center we receive patients throughout our region with severe and life-threatening injuries. This means that wait times for non-life-threatening conditions could be longer than normal, especially during flu season. We appreciate that does not provide the kind of quick access to care people are hoping for, and can certainly lead to frustration — especially when you aren’t feeling well.

Considering alternate options to the emergency room when you don’t have a life-threating illness is the best course of action. While there are a number of medical conditions that are considered emergencies because they require either advanced or rapid treatment that are only available in a hospital setting, many cases of the flu can be treated outside of the ER and a hospital. Pasadena and the surrounding communities have a host of local urgent care clinics, including Exer More Than Urgent Care. Additionally, your primary care physicians office should always be the first consideration as they are aware of your medical history.

Typical flu symptoms include a fever, sore throat, cough and/or body aches. In many cases, people with the flu do not require medical treatment; staying home, getting rest and drinking plenty of fluids is what is best for a fast recovery. However for severe cases of the flu, or for those with more delicate medical conditions, anti-viral treatment can be effective – especially when taken within 48-hours of symptom onset. Most primary care physician offices and urgent care clinics are able to provide anti-viral treatments, so calling your doctor or going to urgent care should be your first line of defense for treating the flu. Both a primary care physician’s office and an urgent care clinic should have shorter wait times than an emergency room, and often if you call they will let you know in advance how long the wait will be. For your visit, it’s always helpful when patients can provide a list of medications they are taking and any allergies they may have.

Get vaccinated. The best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu is to get an annual flu vaccine. The more people who are vaccinated, the more people will be protected from the flu – which is especially beneficial for older people, very young children, pregnant women and those with long-term health conditions or compromised health. Call your doctor or pharmacy today and schedule a flu shot.

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