Doctors: Flu patients don’t always need the ER

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — It’s too early to say whether or not the flu season has peaked.

If you are coming down with the flu, is it minor or should you visit the emergency room?

Dr. Anthony Guarracino is the Chair of Emergency Medicine at UPMC Pinnacle. He says a lot of patients come to the ER when they do not have to.

“There’s only a small subset that really needs medical attention,” Guarracino said. “Most of the patients who get the flu do very well. In five days, seven days at the most, they’re back to normal.”

Guarracino says most patients can go to their family doctor for treatment.

“For most patients, there isn’t some magic pill or drug that’s going to make their symptoms resolve any quicker,” he said.

What symptoms warrant an emergency room visit? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people should go if they have difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, confusion, sudden dizziness, severe dehydration, or start to feel better then suddenly get much worse.

“The side effect is that patients with true minor illnesses, minor coughs and colds, sprains and strains aren’t being seen in a timely manner because we are managing these other sick patients,” he said.

For now, doctors are holding out for the end of the flu season, which usually ends in March.

This story was originally posted by WHTM, a Nexstar contributing station in Pennsylvania. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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