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What to Do if You Are Sick

Most people with flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get sick with flu symptoms, in most cases, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care. If, however, you have symptoms of flu and are in a higher-risk group, or are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider (doctor, physician assistant, etc.).

Certain people are at increased risk of serious flu-related complications (including young children, people 65 and older, pregnant people, and people with certain medical conditions). For a full list of people at increased risk of flu-related complications, see People at Higher Risk of Developing Flu–Related Complications. If you are in a higher-risk group and develop flu symptoms, it’s best for you to contact your doctor early in your illness. Remind them about your higher-risk status for flu. CDC recommends that people at higher risk for complications should get antiviral treatment as early as possible, because the benefit is greatest if treatment is started within 2 days after illness onset.

Do I need to go to the emergency room if I am only a little sick?

No. The emergency room should be used for people who are very sick. You should not go to the emergency room if you are only mildly ill. If you have emergency warning signs of flu sickness, you should go to the emergency room. If you get sick with flu symptoms and are at higher risk of flu complications or you are concerned about your illness, call your health care provider for advice.

What are emergency warning signs of flu?

People experiencing any of these warning signs should obtain medical care right away.

In children
• Fast breathing or trouble breathing
• Bluish lips or face
• Ribs pulling in with each breath
• Chest pain
• Severe muscle pain (child refuses to walk)
• Dehydration (no urine for 8 hours, dry mouth, no tears when crying)
• Not alert or interacting when awake
• Seizures
• Fever above 104°F
• In children less than 12 weeks, any fever
• Fever or cough that improve but then return or worsen
• Worsening of chronic medical conditions

In adults
• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
• Persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
• Persistent dizziness, confusion, inability to arouse
• Seizures
• Not urinating
• Severe muscle pain
• Severe weakness or unsteadiness
• Fever or cough that improve but then return or worsen
• Worsening of chronic medical conditions

These lists are not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptom that is severe or concerning.