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First Aid & Emergencies

The Flu: When to Get Help

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The flu can make you feel miserable, though it’s not usually serious. Most teens get better after resting at home for a couple of days. But a few people need to pay extra attention when they get the flu. Call your doctor for advice if any of these things apply to you:

  • If you have another health condition. People who have other health problems (such as asthma or diabetes) are more at risk of problems when they have the flu. For example, the flu can make some symptoms of an existing health problem worse — like giving someone with asthma breathing trouble.
  • If you are pregnant. Pregnancy can affect a woman’s immune system, making her more vulnerable to flu and other viruses. Because of this, pregnant women are at higher risk of having complications from the flu — although most will recover without complications.
  • If your flu symptoms get better but then come back. When flu symptoms return with a fever and a worse cough, that can be a sign of another infection. Occasionally, flu viruses cause chest infections like pneumonia. Pneumonia can lead to breathing trouble — and that can be an emergency.
  • If your flu is still getting worse after 5 days. If this happens, ask your doctor for advice.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: January 2014