01/19/2018

Worried you have the flu? Here’s how you know where to go.

Do you visit the emergency room, urgent care or see a doctor online? We are here to help.

You are showing all the signs – fever, sore throat, muscle aches, headaches and maybe even vomiting or diarrhea. It’s most likely the flu and you aren’t sure where to go or what to do to get better.

The flu is a highly contagious, respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. The flu is nothing to ignore. The 2017-2018 flu season already has seen widespread activity.

Dr. John Rowlett
Dr. John Rowlett, director of pediatric emergency medicine at St. Joseph’s/Candler

“We have been hit hard by the flu so far this year,” says Dr. John Rowlett, director of pediatric emergency medicine at St. Joseph’s/Candler. “This is a disease of the young, old and infirmed – those with diabetes or heart disease or some other chronic condition. Even if you are healthy, the flu is no fun.”

Do I go to the emergency room or urgent care?

When we are sick, we want to get better as quickly as possible. Symptoms of the flu can linger for three to six days and tend to get worse after the first few days of not feeling well, Dr. Rowlett says.

Sometimes the best treatment is to curl up with a book or Netflix and wash your hands often, Dr. Rowlett says. However, urgent care and emergency departments are available for symptom control.

“Patients should review their symptoms with their primary care physician and determine the best treatment option,” says Billy Rawlings, director of emergency and support services for St. Joseph’s/Candler. If you do come to the Emergency Department, you will get treated.

The Emergency Department is recommended if there is:

  • A drastic change in behavior
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe headache or stiff neck
  • Decreased urine output
  • Inability to keep anything down

“The emergency departments are designed to treat patients that require a quick response to manage their symptoms,” Rawlings says. “We recommend that patients seek urgent care treatment for all non-emergent symptoms. However, should the patient believe their symptoms require immediate attention, the emergency department is a resource available to them.”

Call your doctor or go to an urgent care location if:

  • You are looking for a diagnosis or minor symptom control
  • Such as: sore throat, cough, fever, aches or chills

Dr. Rowlett suggests. If the flu is caught early, a primary care or urgent care physician can prescribe medication that may decrease the severity and length of symptoms.

Related Article: When should I go to the emergency department vs. primary or urgent care?

What do I do if my child has the flu?

Children, along with the elderly, are more likely to get the flu than healthy adolescents and adults. The flu can be deadly for children. The CDC reports 20 children have died in the United States so far this flu season. Just this week, St. Joseph’s/Candler had two children admitted to the hospital for influenza, Dr. Rowlett says.

Billy Rawlings
Billy Rawlings, director of emergency and support services for St. Joseph’s/Candler

“We have seen multiple emergency room visits for flu symptoms in children,” Dr. Rowlett says. “This is a bad year for the flu.”

Symptoms in children are similar to those in adults, with fever and cough the two most common indicators. Children with the flu also may experience sore throat, headache and possible vomiting and diarrhea. Dr. Rowlett says the difference between kids and adults is how pain is expressed. An adult knows when every muscle in the body aches. Children may describe something as “hurting” or “feeling bad.”

He advises parents that if your child acts differently or in general does not look well to at minimum call the pediatrician.

“Come to the hospital if your child needs something your doctor’s office or urgent care can’t provide,” Dr. Rowlett says. “If you are worried, call a healthcare provider. Visit your pediatrician or go to urgent care or come see us. You shouldn’t have to worry without help. That’s what we are here for.”

He also said not to judge the severity based solely on the child’s temperature, but also consider whether there is a drastic change in behavior, difficulty breathing, decrease urine output or an inability to keep food down.

For parents treating the child at home, Dr. Rowlett advises them to follow all medicine instructions carefully and read ingredients. If you are giving your child Tylenol for a fever, you want to make sure the cold medicine for a cough or sore throat also doesn’t have Tylenol as an ingredient. If you chose to give your child Ibuprofen, be sure to also supply plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

Did you know you can talk to a doctor from the comfort of your own home?

If you don’t want to leave your home, there is a way to speak to a board-certified doctor or nurse practitioner about your symptoms.

St. Joseph’s/Candler Smart Care 24/7 brings a health care provider to you when and where you need it. Our team of doctors and nurse practitioners provide consultation, diagnosis and treatment for minor illnesses, including cold and flu, through video chat or over the phone 24/7 without an appointment.  The cost is only $49.

Visitors can access a provider through a web portal or with the app, available from the Apple App Store and Google Play

For more information, visit our website

Get your flu shot now

If you are trying to avoid the flu this year, stay away from others who are coughing, sneezing or congested and always wash your hands, both Rawlings and Dr. Rowlett advice. It’s also important to get the flu vaccine if you haven’t already done so.

“If you have not had a flu shot – in all capital letters – GET ONE NOW,” Dr. Rowlett says. “People will ask, ‘Does it work?’ Well it certainly is not going to work if you don’t get one.”

Dr. Rowlett says studies have shown the more times your body sees a vaccine the better chances our immune system will be to fight off a virus.

Related Article: There’s no excuse. Now is the time to get the flu vaccine. 

Flu vaccines are available at your doctor’s office, local pharmacies and at the St. Joseph’s/Candler Center for Medication Management.

  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
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St.Joseph's Hospital Campus: 912-819-4100

Candler Hospital Campus: 912-819-6000