If you have seen any of the hundreds of news reports covering the 2012 - 2013 flu season, you have likely seen a few stories about long waits in the ER or even triage tents set up outside of hospitals to care for the many patients heading to the hospital with flu symptoms. You have heard about how bad this flu season has been, how the symptoms are worse than usual and widespread outbreaks have occurred despite the fact that the flu vaccine was well matched to the strains of influenza making people sick. You have heard how dangerous the flu can be and if you have had it, you know just how horrible it makes you feel.
Unfortunately, many people mistakenly believe that all of these things mean they should go to the ER at the first sign of a body ache or fever. Millions of people go to the hospital with flu symptoms when they really don't need to be there. But how are you supposed to know when flu symptoms are an emergency and when they aren't?
There are certain signs to look for when you or someone you are caring for has the flu that indicate an emergency situation. Just feeling like you got hit by a truck isn't reason enough to go to the hospital. Spending hours in the ER when you don't really need to be there creates many other problems as well. You expose people who really are experiencing emergencies to your germs, you increase the chances that you will develop another infection because you are exposing yourself to other people's germs when your immune system is already weak from fighting the flu and you increase the wait times for other patients who may actually have serious illnesses or injuries.
For more guidance on when you should and shouldn't go to the hospital if you have flu symptoms, check out our new article: When Should You Go To The Hospital With the Flu?