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Avera Medical Minute: Flu season approaching

Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 1:36 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A lot returns once summer winds down: school, holiday gatherings, and influenza. As we prepare for flu season and having kids back in school, there are plenty of ailments besides COVID that make us feel sick. Avera Hospitalist & Internal Medicine Physician Dr. Jennifer McKay explained when it’s time to see a doctor if some common flu symptoms begin to arise.

Fever: Go to the emergency room if you also experience stomach pain, nausea, or vomiting (it could be appendicitis); severe headache, neck stiffness, drowsiness, vomiting, and light sensitivity (possibly meningitis); you feel faint and confused after spending time outdoors in hot weather (signs of heatstroke). Call your doctor right away if you have one or more of the following: a fever above 103 degrees; bloody diarrhea; a red rash or red streaks on your arm or leg; an earache; painful urination; sore throat; muscle and joint pain; back pain. If two days of an over-the-counter fever reducer (like aspirin or ibuprofen) doesn’t bring down your temperature—or if you’re also vomiting—it’s time for professional help. Call in two weeks if you have a persistent low-grade (101 degrees or less) fever that doesn’t go away.

Sore throat: See a doctor immediately if you have one or more of the following: a fever of 101 degrees or higher; dehydration; difficulty swallowing or breathing; tender or swollen lymph glands in your neck; pus in the back of your throat; a red rash that feels rough, with increased redness in the skin folds; a persistent cough. Call after three days if you also have body aches, headache, cough, or runny nose.

Abdominal pain, diarrhea, or vomiting: You’ll need emergency treatment if you have one or more of the following: a fever above 102 degrees; tender abdomen; bloody diarrhea or black stools; sudden sharp pain that starts under your ribs and moves to your groin; backache; bloating and severe cramping; or you’re pregnant and have abdominal or pelvic pain or vaginal bleeding. Call your physician right away if you’re in constant pain and have vaginal discharge or a burning feeling when you urinate; traveler’s diarrhea that doesn’t respond to over-the-counter medicines; or are taking a new medicine that seems to be causing diarrhea.

Backache: See a physician immediately if the back pain keeps you from sleeping; you also have numbness in your leg, foot, groin, or rectal area; you also have fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, stomachache, weakness, or sweating; you’ve also lost control of urination or bowel movements; you’ve been in a car crash or other accident; you have a history of cancer. Otherwise, try over-the-counter pain relievers, alternating heating pads with ice packs, and a day or two of rest followed by a gentle exercise for two to three weeks before making an appointment.

Heartburn: You’ll want to call after two weeks of a burning sensation in the middle of your chest or abdomen—or sooner if you have other signs of gastroesophageal reflux disease such as a dry cough or trouble swallowing despite using an over-the-counter antacid or reflux medicine.

Muscle and joint pain: Get your internist or general practitioner on the phone immediately if you have a fever; red or swollen skin over the muscle; severe pain that has no obvious cause; a tick bite or rash; or if you recently started a new prescription or changed doses of a drug you’ve been taking. Otherwise, give rest and pain relievers three days to work before making a call.

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