When is the Flu an Emergency?
Symptoms to help parents decide when to go to the ER
Last week, 1,118 children were tested for the flu at Cook Children’s. Of those kids, 429 tested positive (380 for Influenza A and 49 for Influenza B).
With that many kids sick in our area, expect longer wait times if you take your child to the Emergency Department.
Cook Children’s has brought in extra staff to help accommodate the high number of flu cases seen in the Emergency Department. We are early in the flu season and that means waits times will only increase over the course of time.
“The winter is always the busiest time of the year for the Emergency Department. With the high volume of patients, our team needs to prioritize patients according to the apparent severity of medical illness or injury,” said Corwin Warmink, M.D., medical director of Emergency Services at Cook Children’s. “Our team works very hard to care for children as safely and quickly as possible, but we have to make decisions to see the sickest kids first and that sometimes causes frustration for parents.”
Normal signs of the flu include:
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body aches
- Sometimes diarrhea and vomiting
"The best way to prevent the flu is vaccination. It's very important for the entire family to be vaccinated against the flu, including parents and their children," said Parul Martin, M.D., medical director for Cook Children's Urgent Care Services. "Additionally, enforcing frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizers can help prevent the spread of the flu virus and many other respiratory viruses."
She adds that the treatment for kids who have the flu, who are normally healthy and don't have chronic medical conditions is pretty straightforward: TLC, fluids, rest and symptomatic treatment.
The CDC recommends that the treatment for the flu is only for those patients at high risk, such as patients that are 2 years or younger and those patients that have chronic medical conditions for example: Autoimmune diseases, Cardiac concerns, and Pulmonary diseases such as Asthma. The treatment recommended for both Flu A and Flu B is oseltamivir which is most effective when taken within the first 48 hours of flu symptoms.
If your child has emergency warning signs of the flu, parents should go to the emergency room. Warning signs of the flu in children include:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Not drinking fluids
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- Fever with a rash
In addition to the signs above, the CDC recommends parents get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:
- Being unable to eat
- Has trouble breathing
- Has no tears when crying
- Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
“Every patient who comes into our Emergency Department is important to us. However, some patients may be able to receive the care they need from their primary care physician, a neighborhood clinic or an urgent care center,” said Dr. Warmink. “The best thing a parent can do is know what constitutes an emergency so they know where to go when that time comes.”
If it is not an emergency, Cook Children’s offers other options for your child.
Call your child’s primary care physician first to schedule an appointment. To find a Cook Children’s pediatrician in your area, click here.
Cook Children’s is also home to seven Neighborhood Clinics in Arlington, five in Fort Worth and Richland Hills. Click here to find a Neighborhood Clinic. All neighborhood clinics accept Medicaid, Chips and most commercial insurance plans. Click here to find a Neighborhood Clinc near you.
After hours, consider one of Cook Children’s Urgent Care Centers. The Urgent Care Centers are filling up quickly as well, but your wait time will be a bit shorter and you will be able to treat your child with non-emergent needs such as the flu, strep/sore throat and cold symptoms. Click here to find an Urgent Care Center in your area.
The Urgent Care Centers have continued to see increased volumes because of the many respiratory viruses that are currently in circulation, flu being one of them, according to Dr. Martin.
UCC hours are the following:
- Alliance, Southlake and Mansfield are open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Fort Worth UCC is open from 7 a.m. to midnight.
"The Urgent Care Centers gratefully welcome you and your family," Dr. Martin said. "We are prepared to see you and your family as promptly as our volumes will allow. My Urgent Care Center staff and providers are working very hard and doing everything we can do reduce our wait times at the clinics with your child's safety and care a priority."