Flu illness is widespread across the state and many health care facilities report full waiting rooms and a high demand for treatment of flu and other currently circulating illnesses.
To help ease the crowding at medical facilities, state health officials want the public to know when and where to seek medical care, and to be on the lookout for warning signs of a potentially life-threatening situation.
Unless they require immediate medical attention, people who have symptoms of flu should contact their doctor before going to a hospital emergency room.
The emergency room should be used for people who are very sick. You should not go to the emergency room if you are only mildly ill. If you have the emergency warning signs of flu sickness (below), you should go to the emergency room.
In most cases, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care. Most people with the flu have mild or moderate illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs.
People who are at higher risk of flu complications should call their health care provider for advice if they get symptoms of the flu.
These groups include:
- Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old.
- Adults 65 years of age and older.
- Pregnant women (and women up to two weeks postpartum).
- Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
- American Indians and Alaskan natives
- People who have medical conditions, such as asthma and heart, lung, liver, or kidney diseases.
A more complete list of conditions is on the CDC’s website.
There are some danger/warning signs that should prompt immediate medical care.
Fast breathing or trouble breathing
Bluish skin color
Not drinking enough fluids
Not waking up or not interacting
Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
Fever with a rash
In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away if an infant has any of these signs:
Being unable to eat
Has trouble breathing
Has no tears when crying
Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
Severe or persistent vomiting
Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
Recommendations for people who don’t have symptoms of flu:
Get a flu shot. It’s recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older. Flu shots are available at most pharmacies and health care providers across the state. Washington provides all recommended vaccines, including flu vaccine, at no-cost for kids from birth through age 18.
Wash your hands often with soap and warm water. Use sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available
Cover your cough
Stay away from sick people as much as possible. It’s possible to spread flu before you even know you’re sick, so cover your cough, wash your hands often, and stay home if you begin to feel sick.
Typical symptoms of flu illness include:
Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
Runny or stuffy nose
Muscle or body aches
Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
The Department of Health has a weekly report of influenza activity posted during the flu season.