Doctors: Flu patients don’t always need the ER

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Pennsylvania Department of Health says the number of flu cases has gone down, but it’s too early to say whether the season has peaked.

If you are coming down with the flu, is it minor or should you visit the emergency room?

Dr. Anthony Guarracino is the Chair of Emergency Medicine at UPMC Pinnacle. He says a lot of patients come to the ER when they do not have to.

“There’s only a small subset that really needs medical attention,” Guarracino said. “Most of the patients who get the flu do very well. In five days, seven days at the most, they’re back to normal.”

Guarracino says most patients can go to their family doctor for treatment.

“For most patients, there isn’t some magic pill or drug that’s going to make their symptoms resolve any quicker,” he said.

What symptoms warrant an emergency room visit? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people should go if they have difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, confusion, sudden dizziness, severe dehydration, or start to feel better then suddenly get much worse.

Guarracino says the flu is still moving across the state, with each physician seeing about 10 patients a day.

“The side effect is that patients with true minor illnesses, minor coughs and colds, sprains and strains aren’t being seen in a timely manner because we are managing these other sick patients,” he said.

For now, doctors are holding out for the end of the flu season, which usually ends in March.

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