When to Go to the Hospital with Flu Symptoms

October 23, 2009

by Kara Sewell (WICHITA, Kan.)

Sedgwick County Health Department says hospital emergency rooms are packed with people who have flu-like symptoms.

Via Christi says their ER patient load increases weekly, easily seeing an extra thirty to sixty extra people a day.

That number goes up when doctor's offices close.

Alice Bell, a nurse at Via Christi believes fear has played a part in the rise.

But says neither fear or symptoms of the flu should bring you to the E-R.

Besides being unnecessary Bell says it's expensive.

"If you have insurance to cover that, it goes to the insurance but typically you have a co-pay and then those who are uninsured end up with a bill as well," says Nurse Alice Bell.


Bell adds it can also put people at risk of catching other illnesses and takes doctors away from patients who really need emergency care.

It can also contribute to further spread of the virus in the community.

Ill people may want to call his/her health care provider for advice on how to care for themselves at home.

Ill individuals who are at high risk for flu complications (i.e. pregnant women; children younger than five; those older than 65 years; and individuals with chronic disease, HIV, or weakened immune systems) and people with more severe flu symptoms should contact their regular health care provider who can help them determine whether they need to be seen.

Those without a health care provider can call 2-1-1 to be referred to a community health care clinic.

Individuals experiencing the following symptoms should seek immediate medical attention:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • A child is so irritable he/she does not want to be held
  • Bluish or gray skin color (call 9-1-1 immediately) (children)
  • Not drinking enough fluids (children)
  • Not waking up or not interacting (children)
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen (adults)
  • Sudden dizziness (adults)
  • Confusion (adults)
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