If you have the flu, get the right care

Call your doctor before going to an emergency room

Author: Parham Jaberi, MD, Assistant Secretary, Louisiana Department of Health Office of Public Health

It is always important to access the appropriate level of care for illness or injury.  With Louisiana, along with almost all other states, having an unusually high number of flu cases, knowing where to go for the right care is vitally important.

Your choices are your doctor’s office or a community clinic, an urgent care center, or a hospital emergency room.  Your goal is to get well as quick as possible.

An emergency room, or ER, should generally be your last choice unless you are experiencing serious complications from the flu. Serious complications include difficulty breathing, chest pain, inability to keep down food and fluids. For children, the complications include being lethargic, have bluish color lips or skin, breathing fast or not waking or interacting as usual

It is important to know when to visit an ER, as almost all hospitals across the state are reporting increased number of patients with the flu. This influx of patients is causing long delays in getting treatment in an ER.

A good choice for patients to get evaluated and treated for flu symptoms is their primary care doctor. If they are unavailable or if they require more immediate treatment, an Urgent Care clinic may then be the best choice.

Urgent Care clinics have the capability to provide the rapid evaluation and treatment like and ER, but are usually faster, less expensive, and most importantly, do not consume resources needed for more serious illnesses and injuries.

Here are the differences between Emergency Rooms and an Urgent Care clinics:

Urgent Care clinics treat:
• Flu, colds, sinus infections
• Fever, allergies, headaches, and chills
• Sore throat
• Ear pain
• Sprains or strains
• Minor cuts, burns or rashes

Conditions that require an Emergency Room:
• Major Trauma or Accident
• Difficulty breathing
• Loss of Consciousness
• Heart Attack or Chest Pain
• Uncontrollable Bleeding/open wound
• Severe allergic reaction
• Broken bone

The best choice, and the one the Louisiana Department of Health is recommending, is to call your doctor before you go anywhere. A quick call to your doctor will result in a recommendation for the right place to go, as well as what steps to take now to make you feel better.

Finally, remember to get your flu vaccination if you have not done so yet and follow these flu prevention tips:
• Wash your hands frequently
• Cough into your elbow
• Avoid touching your face, nose and eyes
• Disinfect common surfaces: phone receivers, doorknobs, light switches and remote controls

Follow these recommendations, and you can prevent the spread of the flu and get the best care as quickly as possible. 

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