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When You Should Go to Urgent Care for the Flu

May 28, 2024
A woman with dark brown hair and a pink shirt sits on a couch. She is wrapped in a blanket and holds a tissue to her nose.

Most of us have experienced the misery of the flu. A seasonal virus is typically more active in the cooler months; the flu is usually mild enough to allow recovery at home. In some cases, however, it may be more serious.

CareWell Urgent Care offers comprehensive care for the flu at each of our 12 locations.

Here is what you need to know about the flu, its treatment, and signs you should seek help with urgent care for yourself or a family member.

What Is the Flu?

The flu, short for influenza, is one of the most common viruses. Not to be confused with the stomach flu, which is associated with diarrhea and vomiting, influenza is a respiratory virus affecting the throat, nose, and lungs.

Early on, a case of the flu may feel like a common cold. A runny nose, sore throat, and congestion are common initial symptoms. The flu tends to come on more rapidly and typically feels worse overall than a cold. Other symptoms follow, including

  • Eye pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Dry cough
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Fever

Urgent Care for the Flu

In some cases, you or a family member may need to see a doctor for a more severe case of the flu. Possible flu complications can include dehydration, sinus or ear infections, pneumonia, bronchitis, or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Here are some signs that you should seek treatment at urgent care:

  • You have difficulty keeping liquids down and are concerned about dehydration.
  • You have a persistent fever. For adults, this may be a temperature over 103°F. For children, a fever that persists or rises over 102° indicates a visit to urgent care.
  • You have a persistent cough.
  • You have pre-existing health conditions that may result in a more severe case of the flu, such as heart disease, asthma, COPD, immune deficiency, cancer, or kidney disease.
  • You are pregnant.

In addition to the above situations, young children and older adults are more susceptible to flu complications. It is important to monitor them closely and consider a visit to urgent care.

Your CareWell Urgent Care provider will discuss your symptoms, perform an exam, and order any diagnostic testing. We offer on-site testing for the flu, COVID-19, and other illnesses. Your provider can order medications to relieve your symptoms. These may include cough medications or antiviral medications. Certain antivirals, like oseltamivir (Tamiflu), can shorten the duration of your flu and may lessen the severity of symptoms.

If you or a family member are experiencing the following symptoms, it is advisable to seek care at an emergency room:

In Adults

  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty in awakening
  • Not urinating
  • Worsening of a chronic medical condition
  • Difficulty breathing

In Children

  • Gray or blue lips or nail beds
  • Trouble breathing or shallow breathing
  • Dehydration (not urinating, dry mouth)
  • Seizures
  • Severe weakness
  • Fever above 104°F
  • Fever of any degree in a child younger than 12 weeks old

Treating the Flu

You can do certain things at home to ease flu symptoms as you recover:

  • Get plenty of rest. Sleep may help your immune system fight off the flu virus.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, including water, juice, broth, or soup. Preventing dehydration is essential, especially for children and older adults.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers to treat fever and discomfort if you wish. These include acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil). Never give aspirin to children with the flu, as this can trigger a serious condition called Reye's syndrome.
  • Wash your hands frequently and sanitize surfaces. This can help prevent the spread of the flu virus to others.

Preventing the Flu

One way to protect against the flu is to get a flu shot. The influenza virus has multiple variations, or strains, that often change over time. Every year, researchers work to predict which strains will be active in the upcoming flu season and prepare vaccines accordingly.

The flu vaccine's effectiveness may vary, depending on how closely it matches the active influenza strains. A flu shot often prevents a case of the flu or lessens the severity of symptoms if you contract the flu. A flu vaccine can be essential for certain people, including those with health conditions that increase their risk of complications from the flu. High-risk groups include:

  • Children younger than two.
  • Pregnant women.
  • Adults older than 65.
  • People with chronic conditions, including asthma, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, immune deficiency, and heart disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone older than six receive an annual flu shot unless they have a contraindication, such as an allergy. Consult your primary care provider if you have any questions regarding eligibility.

You can take other steps to protect yourself and your family from the flu:

  • Wash your hands frequently or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your nose, mouth, or face.
  • Avoid being around those who are sick.
  • Stay home as much as possible and limit contact with others if you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, ideally with a tissue.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Get plenty of exercise and rest. A healthy immune system can help you fight the flu or other illnesses.
  • Wear a mask if you prefer. This may help to protect yourself and others from illness.

We offer comprehensive urgent care for the flu at each of our 12 locations. From flu shots to testing and treatment, CareWell Urgent Care is your family's home for exceptional care. Visit us at any of our locations today.

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