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Influenza (Seasonal Flu) - When To Call a Doctor

Call911or other emergency services if:

  • You are having trouble breathing, or you feel very short of breath.
  • You have a severe headache or stiff neck and are confused or having trouble staying awake.

Call your doctor if:

Recommended Related to Cold & Flu

The Truth Behind Mom's Cold and Flu Advice

Mothers are celebrated (if sometimes vilified) for their eagerness to advise their children on matters big and small: how to behave, what to wear, whom to marry, when to have kids ... and, oh yes, how to stay healthy during cold and flu season. Does science back up what Dr. Mom told you about the common cold? Or was she full of hot air? Here's what real doctors have to say about 10 familiar cold-busting tips:

Read the The Truth Behind Mom's Cold and Flu Advice article > >

  • You have an extremely high fever.
  • Your fever lasts for longer than 3 days.
  • Your child is 3 months of age or younger and has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher.
  • You are finding it harder and harder to breathe.
  • Wheezing develops.
  • New pain develops or pain localizes to one area, such as an ear, the throat, the chest, or the sinuses.
  • Symptoms do not go away, even with home treatment.
  • Symptoms become more severe or frequent.

Watchful waiting

In most healthy people, the flu will go away in 5 to 7 days, although fatigue can last much longer. Although you may feel very sick, home treatment is usually all that is needed. If it is flu season, you may just want to treat your symptoms at home. Watch closely for symptoms of a bacterial infection, such as nasal drainage that changes from clear to colored after 5 to 7 days and symptoms that return or get worse.

Early treatment (within 48 hours of your first symptoms) with antiviral medicines may reduce the severity of influenza and may prevent serious flu-related complications.1 Babies, older adults, and people who have chronic health problems are more likely to have complications from the flu, and they may need to see a doctor for care beyond home treatment. But not all antiviral medicines work against all strains of the flu. Talk to your doctor if you think you may need an antiviral medicine.

Call your doctor if you think your symptoms are caused by something other than the flu.

Who to see

These health professionals can diagnose and treat the flu:

A doctor who specializes in treating infectious diseases may be needed if the diagnosis is not clear or if severe complications develop.

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 15, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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