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Most healthy individuals do not require a doctor’s care to prevent, diagnose, or treat the flu. Flu vaccines are now readily available at local pharmacies and grocery stores at very affordable prices. Treatment for the flu is often simple bed rest, fluids, and over-the-counter painkillers for symptoms.
The flu can be serious for people in certain high-risk groups. These groups include children, people age 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with already weakened immune systems. People in these groups should see their healthcare provider at the first signs of infection.
Close monitoring of flu symptoms is essential for everyone, but especially for those in high-risk groups. Call your healthcare provider immediately if flu symptoms worsen or last more than two weeks. You should also get care if you suddenly improve and then return with a worsened cough and fever.
There are a number of doctors who can help with flu prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Their role in combating the flu and its related complications should not be minimized.
Every fall, make an appointment with your primary care doctor or family doctor to get a flu shot. This is especially important if you or anyone in your family falls in a high-risk category.
You may be a member of a group at high risk for secondary complications of the flu. If so, you should contact your doctor as soon as you develop any flu-like symptoms.
You should also see a specialist if your symptoms seem particularly severe. Your family doctor will decide whether you need to be referred to a specialist.
A pediatrician is a doctor who specializes in providing healthcare for children. Contact your child’s pediatrician every fall to see if a flu vaccination is appropriate. Children under 6 months of age should not receive a flu shot.
Have your child see their pediatrician if they develop the flu with severe symptoms. The pediatrician can assess their symptoms to determine the best course of treatment and whether they should see a specialist.
Infectious disease specialists have specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases, including the influenza virus. Rarely, you may be referred to an infectious disease specialist if you or your child has an especially severe case of the flu or if the cause of flu-like symptoms is not immediately clear.
Certain symptoms in adults, children, or infants may indicate a medical emergency.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists emergency flu symptoms for adults, children, and infants. Adult emergency symptoms include:
Infant or child emergency symptoms include:
If your child develops any of these serious symptoms, take them to an emergence department to be evaluated.
Pneumonia is a common complication of the flu. This is especially true for certain high-risk groups, such as those over 65, young children, and people with already weakened immune systems. The Mayo Clinic advises seeking medical treatment if you have symptoms of pneumonia, including:
Untreated pneumonia can lead to serious complications and even death. Older adults, smokers, and people with weakened immune systems should be especially careful.
The following are some questions to consider when deciding whether to seek medical treatment for the flu:
High-risk groups include:
Emergency symptoms include:
Here are some additional questions to consider:
Answering yes to any of the above questions is good cause to call your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Early treatment of flu-related complications is key to preventing serious illness.
Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team
Medically reviewed on: Dec 05, 2016: University of Illinois-Chicago, College of Medicine
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