Can You Treat the Flu Alone? When to See the Doctor…
Guest Blogger: Megan Hobbs
This cold and flu season, the average person can expect to battle at least a sniffle. While most people will fight their illness at home with medicines they have stocked in their cabinets, some people will need help from a professional. While you can typically treat your cold or flu on your own, there are times that you will need to see your doctor. Here’s how to know when you need to stop going it alone and seek medical attention:
1. Long-Lasting Fever
Once you’re certain that you have the flu, you need to start paying attention to your fever. A fever is an indication that your body is trying to fight off an infection. In most people, a fever associated with the flu lasts for about three days and hovers between 100 and 103 degrees. If your fever lasts for longer than three days, is higher than 103 degrees or dissipates and then returns, you should seek medical attention. A returning fever could be a sign that you have more than a simple case of the flu.
2. Breathing Difficulty
It’s not unusual to become slightly congested with the flu. This congestion is often why people confuse the flu and the common cold. If you begin to wheeze or have difficulty breathing, you should seek medical attention immediately. Difficulty breathing can signify that you have bronchitis, pneumonia, or another upper respiratory infection and not the flu. Ignoring these symptoms could be dangerous not only to your health but, ultimately, your life.
3. Worsening Symptoms
If you take over-the-counter remedies for your flu, your symptoms should get better day-by-day. You should notice a reduction in your fever, a slow return of your energy and an increasing appetite. Over-the-counter medications should also reduce your cough, ease muscle aches, and make your sore throat disappear. If your symptoms seem to be getting worse instead of better, it may be a sign that you need antiviral drugs. According to the CDC, antiviral medications can reduce the time that you suffer with the flu by up to two days and can prevent more serious complications associated with the illness.
4. Extreme Vomiting
It’s completely normal to experience nausea and vomiting with the influenza virus. While vomiting may last for a day or two, it shouldn’t last for several days, nor should it become extreme. If you experience persistent dry heaves or can’t keep even liquids down, you should make an appointment with your doctor. Extreme vomiting can quickly cause you to become dehydrated. Prescription medication may be able to ease your nausea and vomiting if over-the-counter medications aren’t doing the job.
5. Other Medical Conditions
If you have a chronic medical condition like heart disease, diabetes, or asthma, you should visit your doctor as soon as you think you have the flu. Unfortunately, you don’t have the luxury of waiting to see if you can get rid of the flu on your own. Any virus can complicate your chronic condition; it’s important that you seek medical attention to receive specific instructions from your physician.
While most people will find relief from over-the-counter remedies for the flu, not every person will. If any of the five conditions listed above apply to you, be sure to seek medical attention for your virus. You’ll find that your symptoms are greatly relieved with help from your doctor.
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