• By Ian Roth

Mayo Clinic Minute: How to know when to seek medical treatment for influenza

January 26, 2018

The 2018 influenza season is shaping up to be far worse than most years, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates tens of thousands of people will die from influenza this year, including dozens of children. Many of those deaths are expected to happen because people won't seek medical help soon enough.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

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"Fever, muscle aches, respiratory illness – this is pretty classic for influenza," says Dr. Pritish Tosh, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist.

Dr. Tosh agrees with the CDC's assessment that the 2018 influenza epidemic is the worst in at least a decade, and millions of Americans will suffer with influenza symptoms.

And knowing when to see a health care provider and when to stay home can be tricky.

Urgent care and emergency departments across the country end up flooded with patients, many of whom don't need to be there.

"It makes it a lot harder for those folks who do need to be seen to get in on time," Dr. Tosh says.

He explains that babies under 12 months, people over age 65, pregnant women, people with heart and lung diseases, and immunocompromised people should see a health care provider as soon as they show any symptoms.

"Most young, healthy people who develop influenza will do just fine staying at home getting plenty of fluid, plenty of rest," Dr. Tosh says.

But even otherwise healthy people can suffer complications from influenza.

Dr. Tosh says a few days after you start showing flu-like symptoms, if your fever doesn't go down, you have trouble thinking, can't keep fluids down, and you get lightheaded when you stand up, it's time to seek medical care.

He also says your chances of having influenza-related complications are much lower if you get a flu shot.

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