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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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When To Call a Doctor

Call911or other emergency services if:

  • A baby younger than 3 months has a high fever.
  • You are having trouble breathing or 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

Advice for Parents on Talking to Children About Novel H1N1 Flu (Formerly Swine Flu) Concerns

As a parent you know how hard it can be for children to understand stressful situations, such as the current situation of novel H1N1 flu. Stressful situations often cause children to worry and have many questions as to why it is happening and how it can be fixed. It is important to remember to take care of your health and well-being as well as the health of your children. If you cope with a stressful situation well, your children will also cope better. Your confidence and calm attitude will...

Read the Advice for Parents on Talking to Children About Novel H1N1 Flu (Formerly Swine Flu) Concerns article > >

  • You have an extremely high fever.
  • Your fever lasts for longer than 3 days.
  • 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 persist in spite of 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.2 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:

  • Family physician
  • Internist
  • Pediatrician
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Physician assistant

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.

1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 24, 2011
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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