For most healthy adults, the flu is a minor illness. Sure, you should take some time off work to stay home and recuperate and to avoid spreading the illness to others. But if you’re at low risk for serious flu complications, you probably won’t need to see a doctor.
However, it’s worth remembering that the flu can be a life-threatening illness. The CDC reports that 200,000 people must be hospitalized for the flu each year, and some of those people die. While the number of total flu deaths varies from one year to the next, the CDC estimates that between 1976 and 2007, yearly flu deaths in the United States ranged from about 3,000 to 49,000 people.
Naturally, no one wants to be one of those people. But how can you tell if your flu symptoms are taking a turn for the serious? Knowing when to seek medical attention for flu symptoms could mean the difference between life and death for thousands of Americans who become sick with the flu this year. Learn how to identify emergency flu symptoms in yourself or someone else in your household, and what you should do if they appear.
Known Your Emergency Flu Symptoms
Most people already know the ordinary, everyday symptoms of influenza. They can include:
- Sore Throat
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Body aches
Sometimes, the flu can also cause gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea. However, true influenza always causes respiratory symptoms. Gastroenteritis, or what some people call the stomach flu, can occur due to viral infection, bacterial infection, ingestion of spoiled food or contaminated water, or other issues like food intolerance. You should also be aware that while a fever is a common symptom of influenza, not everyone who develops the disease will have a fever. But even if you don’t have a fever, that doesn’t mean you’re not contagious.
Emergency flu symptoms are more severe than normal flu symptoms. These are the symptoms that require medical attention. In children and babies, they include:
- Breathing problems, including rapid breathing
- Crying without tears
- Urinating less often than normal or not at all
- Blue-tinted skin
- Failing to interact with others or wake up from sleep
- Irritability that causes children to refuse being held
- Severe vomiting
- Pressure or pain in the abdomen or chest
- Fever, accompanied by a rash
- Flu symptoms that appear to improve, only to return with a worsened cough and a fever
Children aren’t the only ones who can develop emergency flu symptoms. Adults can also develop worrisome flu symptoms such as:
- Shortness of breath or other breathing problems
- Pressure or pain in the abdomen or chest
- Severe, or frequent, vomiting
- Flu symptoms that improve, only to return with a worsened cough and renewed fever
If you or someone in your household develops these severe flu symptoms, seek emergency medical care right away.
Who Is at Risk for Severe Flu?
People who are considered to have a high risk of getting seriously ill or even dying from the flu should see a doctor as soon as flu symptoms appear. For these people, treatment with antiviral drugs can help stave off serious flu complications. Antiviral drug treatment should begin as soon as possible after flu symptoms appear. Save money on antiviral prescription drugs at CanadaDrugPharmacy.com, where you can search for prescription drugs by condition.
People who are at a high risk of serious flu symptoms include:
- Pregnant women
- Women who have given birth within the last two weeks
- Babies under two years old
- People over age 65
- Alaska Natives
- American Indians
People with any of the following conditions also run the risk of serious flu complications:
- Asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis or other chronic lung diseases
- Sickle cell anemia or other blood disorders
- Heart disease other than hypertension
- Endocrine or metabolic disorders like diabetes
- Morbid obesity
People who have compromised immunity due to HIV/AIDS, cancer treatment, or any other reason are also at a higher risk of developing life-threatening flu symptoms because their immune systems are not capable of fighting off the flu virus. If you’re at high risk of serious flu symptoms, your medical provider will probably test you for the flu and may prescribe antiviral medication. Remember that the flu, unlike the common cold, comes on suddenly.
For most people, the flu is a minor inconvenience, but for some, it’s a life-threatening medical event. If you’re at high risk for serious flu, or know someone who is, you should know what to do in case flu symptoms appear. Even if you and your family members aren’t in the high risk category, you could still develop serious flu symptoms. Don’t let the flu catch you with your guard down. Know how to identify symptoms that require emergency care.