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Is the Flu an Emergency? - Legacy ER

  • Category: Conditions
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Alex Murray

Is the Flu an Emergency?

Not usually. Influenza, the flu, is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory system. It spreads through fluids produced when someone talks, coughs, or sneezes.

The CDC recommends that children and teenagers under the age of 18 years who have the flu or suspected flu should not be given aspirin (Acetylsalicylic acid) or any other salicylate products like Pepto Bismol™, due to the risk of developing a rare, serious complication called Reye’s Syndrome.

Although it resembles the common cold, the flu is caused by different viruses and can result in severe symptoms that appear suddenly and last for one or two weeks.

While it is not typically an emergency, untreated flu symptoms can result in pneumonia and inflammation of the brain or heart, so it is wise to seek treatment from your doctor or an urgent care facility if you have more than a mild case or you are in a high-risk group.

If your symptoms are mild, stay home. Remain at home until 24 hours have elapsed without fever or fever-reducing medication. If you are worried about your symptoms, don’t hesitate to call your healthcare provider.

What Are the Symptoms of Flu?

  • Fever or feeling feverish, experiencing chills – not everyone will experience a fever with influenza.
  • Coughing, dry or wheezing; chest discomfort
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy nose or nasal congestion, or a runny nose
  • Muscle aches, especially in the back and legs
  • Fatigue or feeling tired all over
  • Headaches

Nausea and vomiting are common in children with the flu, less so in adults.

The following individuals are at higher risk of complications from flu:

  • Infants and young children through age 5
  • Adults over age 65
  • People with low immunity (immunosuppressed)
  • Pregnant women
  • People who are obese or have a BMI of 40 or higher
  • People with chronic conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, lung disease, asthma, and other long-term illnesses.

When to Go to the EMERGENCY ROOM

Seek emergency medical care immediately if you or someone you know is experiencing the following symptoms.


  • Rapid and difficult breathing
  • Blue cast to lips or face
  • Ribs pulling in with every breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dehydration (dry mouth, no tears when crying, 8 hours with no urine)
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Lack of alertness or interaction when awake
  • Seizures
  • Fever above 104 degrees or any fever in infants younger than 12 weeks
  • Fever or cough that improves but then returns or worsens
  • Worsening chronic medical conditions

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