Flu: When to seek medical help?

By  , Expert Content
Aug 02, 2012

Flu is a common illness, which affects millions of people every year. Most people with flu have mild to moderate symptoms for which they don’t need to visit a doctor. The symptoms improve gradually within a week or two, but some people may develop complications or may die.

A person with flu-like symptoms should consult a doctor without delay:

  • If he or she has any chronic disease, such as chronic heart disease, asthma or any other chronic lung disease,  kidney disease (such as renal failure, end stage renal disease), chronic liver disease (such as cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis), diabetes that increases the risk of complications and death in flu
  • If he or she has any serious medical problem (such as cancer, weak immune system because of  disease, medication or treatment) that increases the risk of complications and death in flu
  • If she is pregnant (the risk of complications increases significantly in women who have been pregnant for more than 3 months)
  • for a sick child younger than one year
  • If the symptoms worsen suddenly or gradually  
  • If he or she has severe symptoms or the symptoms do not improve after seven days (for children, consult a doctor if the symptoms fail to improve after five days)

When to seek urgent medical care

Seek urgent medical care for a child if:

  • breathing becomes rapid
  • your child has difficulty in breathing
  • the colour of skin becomes blue  
  • your child is not accepting adequate amount of fluids or looks dehydrated
  • the child appears weak, lethargic, is not waking up or interacting poorly
  • your child is irritable or inconsolable even after holding
  • the symptoms, such as fever and cough start to worsen after an initial improvement
  • your child develops any kind of rash with fever

Adults should seek urgent medical care if:

  • they experience difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath  
  • they have bothersome pain or heaviness in chest or abdomen
  • you feel dizzy, lightheaded, confused
  • you have recurrent, continuous or severe  vomiting and are not able to keep down fluids
  • you experience recurrence of flu-like symptoms (such as fever, cough) after improvement

Who to consult

Some health professionals, who can be consulted for flu include:

  • paediatrician,
  • family physician,
  • internist,
  • physician assistant



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