Flu Emergency: When To Call 911

when to call an ambulance for flu

If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, it is important to determine whether you need to call an ambulance or can manage your symptoms at home. Most people with the flu will recover within 3-5 days and do not require medical intervention. However, certain high-risk groups, such as pregnant women, young children, the elderly, or those with pre-existing health conditions, should seek immediate medical attention if they develop flu symptoms. If you are experiencing chest pain, difficulty breathing, sudden confusion, or an altered mental state, call 911 right away as these could be signs of a heart attack or stroke. In the case of children, look out for symptoms such as rapid or laboured breathing, dehydration, or irritability, and seek emergency care if these occur. For adults, a severe sore throat, a cough with a lot of green or yellow mucus, or symptoms of pneumonia may warrant a call to the ambulance service. Trust your instincts and seek help if you feel your situation is dangerous or you are concerned about your illness.

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Flu symptoms in children

The flu is a very contagious viral infection that affects the air passages of the lungs. It is one of the most common and severe illnesses of the winter season. The flu often causes a combination of a high fever, body aches, a cough, and other symptoms. It can be difficult to distinguish the flu from other childhood illnesses, such as the common cold or respiratory syncytial virus. However, there are some key flu symptoms in children to watch out for:

  • It comes on suddenly
  • Fever is greater than 100° Fahrenheit
  • Coughing is dry
  • There is a noticeable headache
  • The child experiences sudden weakness or exhaustion
  • It is accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea

If your child is showing any of these symptoms, it is important to get them medical attention as soon as possible. The flu can lead to serious complications, especially in young children, and it is important to act quickly to prevent the spread of the virus.

When to Call an Ambulance for Flu Symptoms in Children

It is important to call an ambulance if your child is experiencing any of the following symptoms, as they could indicate a life-threatening condition:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not urinating or no tears when crying
  • Severe or repeated vomiting
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or belly
  • Flu-like symptoms that get better but then return with a fever and worse cough
  • A fever above 104° Fahrenheit that is not controlled by fever-reducing medicine
  • Fever of 100.4° Fahrenheit or higher for children younger than 3 months, regardless of the use of fever-reducing medicines
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Severe or repeated vomiting
  • Blue lips or a heaving chest
  • Refusing to eat or drink
  • Having difficulty staying alert
  • Experiencing muscle pain so strong that it becomes hard to walk

If your child is exhibiting any of these symptoms, it is important to act quickly and call an ambulance. Do not try to drive your child to the hospital yourself, as the ambulance has special equipment and trained personnel who can provide immediate medical attention.

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Flu symptoms in pregnancy

Pregnant women are more susceptible to the flu because their immune system is suppressed and there are additional stresses placed on the heart and lungs. Lung capacity decreases and heart rate increases during pregnancy, which can lead to pneumonia and even hospitalization. Having the flu during pregnancy can also increase the chances of miscarriage, premature birth, and low birth weight. Therefore, it is important to take precautionary measures to prevent the flu.

The flu symptoms in pregnancy include shortness of breath, a cough, diarrhea or vomiting, and sudden chills or fever. If you are pregnant and begin to feel ill with any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. Your doctor can prescribe safe antiviral medications to treat the flu, and taking these as soon as possible can reduce the amount of time you are sick. Other steps to treat the flu include getting plenty of rest and drinking plenty of fluids.

According to the Office of Teratology Services, a safe medication to take to lower a fever and treat aches and pains is acetaminophen (such as Tylenol). Other possibly safe medications include dextromethorphan (Robitussin-DM or Delsym), guaifenesin, or cough drops. However, it is always important to consult your doctor before taking any medications, as some are not safe in the first or second trimesters and some require a specific type of medication (e.g. one not containing alcohol or ibuprofen).

If you experience any of the following symptoms, seek emergency care right away:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or belly
  • Sudden dizziness or confusion
  • Severe or constant vomiting
  • Decreased or no movement of your unborn baby
  • High fever (above 102 degrees Fahrenheit) or a lower fever that does not go down in 24 hours with Tylenol

If you are pregnant and have flu symptoms, it is important to get medical help immediately. Do not try to drive yourself to the hospital, as ambulances have special equipment and trained people who can help you more quickly.

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Flu symptoms with pre-existing conditions

If you have an underlying health condition, such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease, and you contract the flu, you are at higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications. This includes people aged 65 and over, pregnant women, and children younger than 5 years, especially those under 2. If you fall into one of these categories and have flu symptoms, you should call your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

People with pre-existing conditions are more likely to experience severe symptoms, such as high fever (over 103 F/40 C), difficulty breathing, chest pain, and severe muscle pain or weakness. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention and consider calling an ambulance.

In addition, if you have the flu and your symptoms do not start to improve after 7 to 10 days, or if your fever lasts longer than 3 days, you should contact your healthcare provider. It is important to get tested early so that antiviral medications can be prescribed and are most effective.

If you have the flu and are experiencing any warning signs or symptoms of more serious illness, such as fast breathing, severe or persistent dizziness, confusion, or chest pain, you should get medical help immediately. These symptoms could indicate a more severe complication, such as pneumonia, myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).

If you have a pre-existing condition and are experiencing flu-like symptoms, it is important to monitor your symptoms closely and seek medical attention as needed. Do not hesitate to call an ambulance or go to the emergency room if you feel your condition is potentially life-threatening or you are unable to get to the hospital by other means.

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Flu symptoms requiring immediate medical attention

Flu symptoms can be similar to those of a common cold, but the flu is a serious illness that can have life-threatening complications. While most people recover from the flu in a few days without medical intervention, certain flu symptoms require immediate medical attention. Here are some flu symptoms that necessitate urgent medical care:

Difficulty Breathing

Experiencing rapid or laboured breathing, or difficulty breathing in general, is a critical warning sign that requires immediate medical attention. This symptom may indicate pneumonia, a potentially severe complication of the flu. Pneumonia causes inflammation in the lungs and can lead to breathing difficulties.

Dehydration

Dehydration is a concern, especially in children, as they may not be drinking enough fluids to maintain proper hydration during a bout of flu. If someone is exhibiting signs of dehydration, such as not urinating or a lack of tears when crying, seek medical help immediately.

Persistent Fever

A high fever that does not respond to fever-reducing medications is cause for concern. In children younger than 3 months, a temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher is considered an emergency. For older children and adults, a fever above 104°F (40°C) that cannot be controlled with medication warrants immediate medical attention.

Chest Pain or Pressure

Chest pain or pressure that lasts for more than a few minutes or recurs can be indicative of a heart attack or pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lung). Call an ambulance immediately if you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, as prompt treatment is crucial.

Confusion or Altered Mental Status

Sudden confusion, disorientation, or an altered mental state can be a symptom of a stroke or other serious condition. If you observe someone displaying these symptoms, don't wait; call for emergency medical assistance right away.

It is important to trust your instincts and seek medical help if you feel your condition is serious or deteriorating. While this list covers some of the critical flu symptoms, it is not exhaustive. Always consult a medical professional if you are concerned about your health or the health of a loved one.

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Flu symptoms and when to call 911

The flu is a serious illness that can sometimes have life-threatening complications. While most people recover from the flu within 3-5 days without medical intervention, certain groups are at a higher risk of developing serious complications. These include:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children under 2 years of age
  • People with neurologic or neuromuscular disorders, asthma, or chronic lung diseases like COPD or cystic fibrosis
  • People with heart disease (except high blood pressure), a history of stroke, liver or kidney disease, blood disorders, metabolic or endocrine disorders (such as diabetes), or a weakened immune system
  • People who are 65 years or older

If you fall into any of these categories and develop flu symptoms, it is important to call your healthcare provider as soon as possible. They will be able to advise you on the best course of action and may prescribe antiviral drugs to treat the flu.

In some cases, flu symptoms may be severe enough to warrant calling 911. This is especially true if you or someone you know is experiencing any of the following:

  • Chest pains or difficulty breathing
  • Sudden confusion or altered mental status
  • Choking
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Severe injuries from a fall, accident, or other trauma
  • Inability to get to the emergency department due to weakness or injury

If you are experiencing any of these life-threatening symptoms, do not hesitate to call 911. The operators will be able to assist you and dispatch an ambulance if necessary. It is always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your health.

Additionally, if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms along with any of the following, seek emergency medical care:

  • Blurry vision, double vision, or loss of vision
  • Severe headache, nausea, vomiting, numbness, weakness, dizziness, or confusion
  • Severe pain or irritation in the eyes
  • High fever (over 104°F for adults and 102°F for children)
  • Dehydration
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Seizures
  • Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy
  • Heavy bleeding from a wound
  • Broken bones, especially if the bone pierces the skin or the injured body part looks deformed

Remember, if you are ever in doubt about whether to call 911, it is always better to err on the side of caution. Your health and safety are the top priorities.

Frequently asked questions

No, not unless it's a critical emergency. Ambulances are for critical medical emergencies, so they should only be called if someone has an imminent, life-threatening emergency.

You may have the flu if you have some or all of the following symptoms: runny or stuffy nose, diarrhoea, vomiting, high fever, sore throat, and cough that produces a lot of green or yellow mucus.

If you develop emergency warning signs, get medical attention immediately. These signs include gasping for air, persistent chest pain, new confusion or inability to arouse, severe or constant dizziness, slurred speech, and new seizures that won't stop.

Most people with the flu will recover within 3-5 days without medical intervention. However, it is important to stay home, rest, drink fluids, and practice good hygiene by covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and washing your hands frequently.

Yes, people who are pregnant, children under 2 years of age, individuals with chronic medical conditions (neurologic, respiratory, cardiac, renal, etc.), and those over 65 years of age are considered high-risk. If you fall into any of these categories and develop flu symptoms, call your healthcare provider immediately.

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