Flu season creates long wait times at Triad emergency rooms

This could very well be the peak of flu season and that means longer wait times in Triad emergency rooms.

Doctors say flu patients are putting a strain on emergency department staff and patients who need to be seen right now.

“The wait time at the ED is very high right now,” said Dr. John Jenkins, the Chief Clinical Officer for Connected Care.

“This time of year is always higher and this year is no different than others,” said Dr. Christopher Ohl, an infectious disease expert with Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Doctors are urging people with the flu to evaluate their symptoms before heading to the emergency department.

“Everybody’s going to feel lousy,” Jenkins said. “Everybody’s probably going to get a cough, a sore throat or a headache.”

“You’re going to feel totally miserable, but you really don’t need to see a physician unless there are certain dangerous signs or symptoms,” Ohl said.

Those signs include trouble breathing, shortness of breathe, a tight chest or confusion. Doctors say kids and adults with those symptoms should see a doctor right away.

The flu can also be especially dangerous for people older than 65, younger than 2, or who have weakened immune systems or certain chronic illnesses. If people in those groups get the flu, doctors suggest making a trip to the doctor, the ED or urgent care

But for otherwise healthy adults and kids, doctors say it really is OK to just stay home.

Moses Cone Hospital offers e-visits for patients. Other hospitals can order flu prescriptions on the phone. You can avoid a trip to the doctor or emergency room and the risk of spreading the disease.

“If you have the flu, stay home,” Jenkins said. “Don’t go to work sick, because it is a highly transmittable disease.”

Both doctors agree it’s not too late to get your flu shot. They expect flu season to last at least another month and possibly into April in North Carolina.

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