Influenza Self Care

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sponsored by: Health and Human Services Department, Division

H1N1 Self Care

When should you seek medical care for influenza-like illness?

New guide helps people with flu-like illness decide

 See a "Decision Chart" to help you know when someone requires medical attention PDF icon

As the flu season intensifies, many people with flu-like illness are visiting doctors' offices and emergency rooms. Some of these visits are essential for people to receive care that prevents complications and saves lives. Many other visits, however, aren't necessary because most people can safely recover from flu at home without the need for outside medical care.

"We want people to get medical care when they need it," said Dr. Gary Oxman, Multnomah County Health Officer. "We're also concerned that when people unnecessarily visit doctors' offices and hospitals, they can decrease the ability of healthcare providers to get care to people with severe flu or other conditions."

Health officials in Oregon and Southwest Washington have developed a decision chart to help people decide when to seek medical attention for flu-like illness (see attached). The chart includes the following guidelines:

Warning signs Adults and children with flu symptoms (fever, sore throat, cough, headache, muscle aches) who also exhibit any of the following warning signs should receive emergency care as soon as possible and call 9-1-1 if necessary:

  • Confusion or can't be woken up
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pain or pressure in chest or abdomen
  • Blue lips or skin rash
  • Unable to drink or keep liquids down

Additionally, children with these symptoms need immediate emergency care:

  • Fever in an infant under 3 months old
  • Excessive irritability

Medical conditions

The following people should contact their healthcare provider today if they have flu symptoms:

  • Pregnant women
  • Anyone age 65 or older
  • Anyone with one or more of the following conditions:
    • Cancer
    • Blood disorders
    • Chronic lung disease like asthma or emphysema
    • Diabetes Heart, kidney or liver disease
    • Nervous system or muscle diseases
    • Weakened immune system
    • Obese (over 250 pounds for women, 300 pounds for men)
    • Flu-like symptoms clearly improve, then worsen

No warning signs or medical conditions

People with flu-like illness who don't have warning signs or any of the medical conditions listed above can stay home and rest, drink plenty of fluids, and treat fever with acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (e.g., Motrin®, Advil®). Do not use aspirin for fever control in children under age 18). If symptoms improve and then worsen, seek medical attention.


The following prevention measures can help prevent the spread of flu, colds, and other diseases and should be observed by everyone at all times of the year:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Cough or sneeze into your arm or elbow rather than into your hands
  •  Stay home if you are sick.

For more information:



Media Contact:

Kent Burtner, Communications Officer, Health and Human Services