If you contract the flu, you will probably experience symptoms like sore throat, a high fever, cough and pains and aches. You might not see any reason to see a doctor and instead, may decide to treat yourself with more fluids and rest. However, in some cases, seeing a doctor will help ensure faster recovery and prevent significant complications.
Common flu symptoms
Certain symptoms of flu can overlap with the common cold, but they tend to occur much faster and are more severe. The common signs of the flu include:
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
- Fever over 100°F (38°C)
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Dry or wet cough
Patients experiencing the following symptoms need to visit the emergency room immediately:
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Chest pain
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe neck stiffness
- Loss of consciousness
When to visit the medical clinic
Some people are at a high risk of suffering dangerous complications related to the flu, like pneumonia or bronchitis. Such patients need to visit the medical clinic as soon as they notice the first signs of flu. Individuals considered high risk include:
- Those age 65 or older
- Those with a compromised immune system
- People with a chronic medical condition (such as heart disease, asthma or diabetes)
- Pregnant women or up to two weeks postpartum
- Nursing home residents
Those who fit into any of the above categories may get an antiviral medication from the physician. The medications are more effective when they are used within the first 48 hours after symptoms begin—the earlier the visit to the medical clinic, the better.
For those who are not high-risk individuals and are not experiencing any of the severe symptoms, a trip to the medical clinic might not be necessary, as adequate rest and fluids should be enough. However, there are other times when one might need to visit the doctor. These include:
- The fever improves, then suddenly aggravates
- Symptoms do not improve after two weeks
- One has a persistent cough that starts to produce thick mucus
- Pain is localized in one area (like the chest, ear or sinuses)
Most people experience a full recovery from the flu in about a week. However, if one notices improvements and then the condition quickly deteriorates and fever spikes, it might be a case of flu complication. The major complications of the flu are infections of the lungs (pneumonia) or sinuses.
If you are down with the flu and are at high risk of developing flu complications or you are worried about the condition, you should contact the medical clinic immediately to book an appointment. Getting a flu vaccine can significantly reduce the risk of getting the flu. In some cases, the doctor may recommend prescription antiviral drugs to treat the condition.
When you are going to the doctor’s office, ensure that you wear a face mask if you can. Try to wash your hands and cover your face when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of the virus.
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