Partners in Care Q&A: "I Think I Have the Flu. How Do I Know If I Should See a Doctor?"

Renata Gelman, RN, BNS, clinical manager of Partners in Care, answers your pressing health questions.

By Renata Gelman, RN, BNS
Image of Renata GelmanRenata Gelman, RN

Reader Question: "I heard on the news that hospitals are jammed with flu sufferers. What symptoms make a hospital visit necessary?"

Renata says: Although most people recover fully from the flu, some develop serious complications, including life-threatening conditions such as pneumonia. About 20,000 people in the United States die of flu complications each year, and thousands more need to be hospitalized prior to recovery.

If a patient has a chronic disease and suddenly gets flu symptoms, they should call their doctor right away. Patients should also notify their doctor if they have flu-like symptoms with chest pain, ear pain, shortness of breath, fever that is not going away, or a cough that produces blood or thick, foul-smelling mucus.

You should go to the hospital if:

  • You have a fever for more than seven days and it doesn't go away or respond to medication management
  • Your symptoms include nausea and vomiting that causes dehydration
  • You develop chest tightness and or pain that gets progressively worse
  • Your cough is accompanied by wheezing

Otherwise, with the help of medications like Tylenol and proper water intake, your body’s immune system should fight the flu and resolve symptoms within seven days. Also, antiviral medications could be helpful, if taken within 48 hours of noticing flu symptoms.

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Renata Gelman, RN, BSN, is clinical manager for Partners in Care, an affiliate of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY), the largest home health care agency in the United States. Partners in Care strives to provide the highest quality private care services to people in their homes or communities, including personal care and companionship, private-duty nursing, patient review assessments and geriatric care management.


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