A doctor's advice on dealing with the flu

You don't want to make a fatal error when it comes to you or your family's health. So when should you call the doctor?

Posted: Jan 30, 2018 11:54 AM
Updated: Mar 10, 2020 3:40 PM

Alabamians are suffering through one of the worst flu seasons in recent memory. The Alabama Department of Public Health said the virus is "widespread" in the Yellowhammer state, with several strains identified.

As of late January, forty-four people, including children, are suspected to have died because of the flu this season.

You certainly don't want to make a life-threatening mistake when it comes to your family's health and safety. So, here is some advice on when you should call your doctor, or head to the emergency room.

WAAY 31 talked with Dr. Ali Hassoun, an infectious disease specialist for fifteen years with Huntsville Hospital. Dr. Hassoun advises, for people with mild to moderate flu symptoms, call your doctor’s office first. Many times, they can diagnose and prescribe medication right over the phone. Mild to moderate cases of the flu usually do not require a hospital visit.

But Dr. Hassoun urges you to see your doctor or head to the emergency room right away if you have any of the following symptoms:

  1. Difficulty breathing
  2. Chest or stomach pain
  3. Dizziness or lightheadedness
  4. Severe vomiting

These red flags are the same for adults and children. However, with sick kids, seek emergency medical treatment if:

  1. Their lips or skin appear bluish.
  2. They can’t wake up or interact with you.
  3. They have a high fever with a rash.

You should also seek medical attention if you're at high risk for severe flu complications: young children, adults over 65, pregnant women, people with asthma, diabetes, and heart disease, or if you have a weakened immune system due to disease or medication (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or cancer, or those on chronic steroids).

Most people who get the flu can treat themselves at home and often don't need to see a doctor. But if you have symptoms and are at risk of complications, see your doctor right away. Dr. Hassoun said taking antiviral drugs within 48 hours of you first noticing symptoms may reduce the length and severity of your illness.

And he has a special note for new mothers. It's often difficult to tell if your newborn is crossing the threshold to serious illness. Watch for signs of dehydration, especially in infants and young children, including a lack of tears and fewer wet diapers or trips to the bathroom, and a difference in the texture of their skin.

For more information on what to do if you get the flu, or tips on preventing the flu, check out these resources:
Alabama Department of Public Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Mayo Clinic

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