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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

Antibiotics for the Flu?

Ask any doctor if you should take antibiotics for the flu, and you’ll get a weary shake of the head and a resounding no. “Viral infections like the flu aren’t affected by antibiotics,” says William Schaffner, MD, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University’s School of Medicine in Nashville. “You might as well take a placebo.” Instead, antiviral medication can be used to treat the viral infections like the flu. But that is a different type of medicine than antibiotics...

Read the Antibiotics for the Flu? 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 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.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: September 09, 2014
    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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