Infographic: When to Visit a Doctor for Flu Symptoms

Since 2010 in the United States, the flu has caused between 140,000 to 960,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 to 79,000 deaths yearly.

Even though most people recover at home in a week or two, the flu shouldn’t be taken lightly. This article covers flu symptoms you should watch out for so you can schedule a timely doctor’s visit.

Typical Flu Symptoms

Flu symptoms are similar to those of the common cold but tend to be more rapid and severe. The most common symptoms include:

● sore throat
● fever above 100℉
● muscle aches
● chills
● dry or wet cough

Emergency Symptoms

You need to head immediately to the emergency room if you have any of these symptoms:

● chest pain
● severe or persistent vomiting
● severe neck stiffness
● confusion
● difficulty breathing
● loss of consciousness

High-Risk Individuals

You’re considered high risk and should visit a doctor at the first signs of the flu if:

● you have a compromised immune system
● you are age 65 or older
● you are pregnant or two weeks postpartum,
● you’re a nursing home resident
● you have a chronic medical condition, i.e., asthma, heart disease, diabetes

If you fit into one of these categories, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication, which works best within 48 hours after symptoms start.

Other Reasons To See A Doctor

If you’re not considered high risk, and you’re not having severe symptoms, you can skip a visit to the doctor and treat the flu with rest and fluids. However, there are some other reasons to schedule a doctor’s appointment, including:

● your symptoms don’t improve within two weeks
● your fever improves but suddenly worsens
● pain is concentrated in a single area such as your chest, ear, or sinuses
● You can’t get rid of your cough, or it starts producing thick mucus

Most people recover from the flu in a week. However, you might suffer a flu complication if you start getting better and rapidly deteriorating, and your fever spikes again. The main flu complications are infections of the sinuses or lungs (pneumonia).


If you get sick with the flu and have a high risk of flu complications, you should consult your doctor for advice and to determine if you need to come in. You can also get a flu vaccine shot, lowering your chances of contracting the illness.