When to Get Medical Help for Flu Symptoms


Winter is in full swing, and that means the heart of influenza (flu) season is here. Getting your flu shot offers the best protection against becoming ill with the flu, and at Prima Medicine, in Fairfax and South Riding, Virginia, our providers follow CDC recommendations that people ages 6 months and older get this protective vaccine every year.  

We also know that even if you get the flu shot, wash your hands frequently, and take other precautions, you can still get the flu. And, since the flu can strike with differing symptoms and degrees of severity, it can be challenging to know when it’s time to seek medical help.

Here’s a closer look at the details of the flu and signs it could be time to schedule an appointment for immediate care or urgent care with Prima Medicine.  

Influenza 101

Influenza is an extremely contagious viral infection. Different types of the flu exist, but the most common are influenza types A and B. While you can get the flu at any time of the year, it usually strikes during the coldest months (between October and May). 

The virus that causes the flu spreads when infected people release droplets that contain the virus by talking, coughing, or sneezing, and other people breathe them in or touch a surface with the particles on it. 

Recognizing flu symptoms

Flu symptoms generally develop quickly. Keep in mind that even though the virus is considered a respiratory disease, the flu can trigger many symptoms, including: 

  • Fever (over 100°F)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Cough
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Muscle and joint aches and pains
  • Generally feeling “bad” all over the body
  • Headache or eye pain
  • Stomach upset 

Most people who get the flu typically feel better after about a week. However, even after the acute phase of the infection passes, you might continue to feel more tired than normal or have lingering symptoms, such as a runny nose or cough, for 3-4 weeks.   

When the flu requires medical help

Most people recover from the flu with no serious problems, but many people still end up hospitalized because of complications. Depending on the situation, a person with the flu may need monitoring, early treatment, or immediate care.

When to get early help

If you or your child has certain risk factors, such as the following, there is a higher risk for complications. In these cases, if you suspect the flu, call your medical provider right away. Your provider may monitor the situation or request that you come in for early treatment.

  • Under 12 months old
  • Age 65 and older
  • Pregnant or have given birth recently
  • Have certain chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, heart disease, or diabetes
  • Have a weakened immune system 

When to get immediate help

If certain symptoms, such as these, are present, get help immediately:

For children

  • Bluish skin
  • Troubled or fast breathing
  • Severe dehydration (not drinking or urinating, or no tears when crying)
  • Repeated or severe vomiting
  • Not waking or interacting
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or belly
  • Dizziness that comes on suddenly
  • Confusion
  • Fever with a rash

For adults

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Confusion
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or belly
  • Dizziness that comes on suddenly
  • Repeated or severe vomiting
  • Symptoms that get better but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Severe dehydration

Do know that no matter if any of these factors apply to you, if you’re feeling crummy, call us for guidance. We can guide you on the next step to take.

Get the care you need

If you have symptoms of the flu, your Prima Medicine provider can diagnose what’s making you ill using a flu test. This can help us create a personalized flu treatment plan to help you recover as quickly as possible. 

When caught early, our team might use antiviral medications to help speed your recovery and prevent complications from developing. Since you can’t plan when you get the flu, our team offers urgent care and immediate care appointments, so you can get the care you need quickly.  

To get help for your flu symptoms, book an appointment online or over the phone with Prima Medicine today.

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