Call in sick — for everyone’s sake

American College of Emergency Physicians

Call in sick! That is the advice from the nation’s emergency physicians if you happen to have flu-like symptoms.  Doctors suggest it’s one of the best ways to help prevent the spread of this year’s particularly aggressive national flu outbreak.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that as we turned the corner from 2013 to 2014, influenza was “widespread” in 25 states, including Minnesota, and “regional” in 20.

“Even with flu-like symptoms, many people still try to go to work, school or other activities,” said Dr. Andrew Sama, immediate past president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “This is only making a bad situation worse, spreading the virus and getting more people sick. Not to mention, you are putting yourself at greater risk of worsening your current health situation such as developing pneumonia.”  Doctors advise that you rest at home until you start to feel better.

During last year’s flu season, emergency rooms were stressed by a large increase in patients. The flu effect added  to an already busy emergency care system and is caused admitted patients to be “boarded” in emergency departments because there were not enough inpatient hospital beds to provide for them.

Those at highest risk of flu include the elderly, pregnant women and people with special medical needs. If these people feel they need to seek emergency services for flu-related symptoms, they should.

Typical symptoms include fever, sore throat, runny nose and upper respiratory symptoms, headache, fatigue, and muscle or body aches. To get over the flu, doctors advise that you drink plenty of liquids, get rest, and if diagnosed early take antiviral medication.

Those at risk and otherwise healthy adults should seek emergency care if they are experiencing any of these symptoms:
• difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
• pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
• sudden dizziness
• confusion
• severe or persistent vomiting
• flu-like symptoms that improve, but then return with fever and increased cough

Seek emergency care for children if they have:
• fast breathing or trouble breathing
• a bluish skin color
• a reluctance or inability to drink enough fluids
• alertness changes such as not interacting with others or not waking up
• irritableness that makes them not want to be held
• flu-like symptoms that improve, but then return with fever and increased cough
• fever with a rash

In addition to all of the symptoms above, an infant who as any of the following signs should get emergency care:
• irritability/ being inconsolable
• inability to eat or drink
• trouble breathing
• no tears when crying
• significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
• persistent fevers

It is not too late to get the flu vaccine if you haven’t done so already. Also, it’s important to take routine preventative measures like washing your hands regularly, wiping down work stations and covering your nose and mouth when you sneeze and cough.   

-- ACEP is the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.

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