Navigating Cold & Flu Season: What Level of Care is Needed

posted by Laura Manwarren on Friday, December 3, 2021

Cold and flu season has arrived and with an increase in illness brings an increase of phones calls and visits to the Spencer Hospital Emergency Department. While it’s important for people to check with their local healthcare teams when they have concerns, it is also important for people, especially parents, to know what symptoms to look for and how they can help treat the illness at home.

Currently, there are four viral illnesses that share a lot of common symptoms – the common cold, influenza, RSV, and COVID-19. Many times the only way to know what illness a person has is through testing. It is very important to monitor symptoms and begin treatment of the illness as soon as possible because a delay in treatment can lead to complications, such as pneumonia. On a positive note, treating the symptoms of these illnesses is similar. However . . . if you suspect you or a loved one may have COVID-19 and are having symptoms, it’s important to get tested at your family medical clinic sooner rather than later as monoclonal antibody therapy has had great results, but this treatment can only be administered within a certain time frame of the illness.

Treating Illness at Home

For mild symptoms such as temperatures below 100 degrees, body aches, or mild cough, we recommend the care standards of:

  • Rest
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Take over-the-counter medications (i.e. Tylenol)
  • Monitor your symptoms

Treating Illness at a Clinic

If your symptoms aren’t improving or worsening, contact your physician’s office to determine if you, or your loved one, should be seen by a medical provider. Avera Medical Group Spencer offers Quick Care, designed to provide care for urgent, yet not emergent, health care needs. Quick Care is available each weekday and on Saturdays from 8 AM – 1 PM.

Treating Illness in an Emergency

Please call 911 or go directly to the Emergency Department if you:

  • Are having difficulty breathing
  • Are experiencing any other health emergencies such as chest pain, left arm or jaw pain, seizures, allergic reactions, stroke symptoms, etc.

If you are unsure if you should seek emergent care or wait until the clinic reopens, please call the Emergency Department for advice.

Common Questions People Ask the Emergency Department

What is the best way to treat a fever?

  • Encourage lots of fluids, popsicles, etc.
  • Give Tylenol every 4-6 hours. For children, the dose should be based on weight.
  • Or give Ibuprofen every 6 hours. For children, the dose should be based on weight.
  • Infants and toddlers can be stripped down to their diapers. Frequently, they may be chilled and want to be wrapped but that does not help the fever – keeping them wrapped up can prevent breaking the fever.
  • You can put a child in a bath or shower – it should not be a cold bath, just a regular (not too hot) bath.
  • If you are struggling to break the fever, you can alternate between Tylenol and Ibuprofen every 3 hours. Give one, then 3 hours later give the other, then 3 hours later give the first one again. Rotating as needed. This will make it 6 hours between the same medications.
  • Expect the fever to go up at night, this is our body’s natural rhythm. Continue to treat the fever as needed.
  • Clay County Public Health, the Spencer ER, and Avera Medical Group Spencer have a great reference card for Tylenol and Ibuprofen dosing, please click here to download - Infant & Child Dosing Card

What is the best way to treat a cough?

There are several great over-the-counter products for coughs available. If you are unsure of what to use for you or a loved one, consult with your family medical provider or local pharmacist for their recommendation.

Can I get an antibiotic for my cold or illness?

  • If your illness is caused by a virus, the treatment is symptom control. Antibiotics do not work for viruses. If you use an antibiotic when it is not needed, it can possibly cause an antibiotic not to work when it is needed.
  • The best way to know if an antibiotic is right for you is to see your family medical provider.
  • It can be hard to feel like you aren’t treating your illness, but continue to treat any symptoms. A virus can take up to 7-14 days, so the turnaround in feeling better may be delayed.

Please remember that the impact of an illness can change rapidly. We hope with an effective treatment that people can see an improvement in their health. If you or your child does not improve or symptoms worsen while treating the illness at home, do not hesitate to call or make a visit to the Emergency Department.

Also, please reminder that emergency professionals do not take appointments; rather, patients are assessed and most urgent cases are treated first, regardless of when the patient arrives. This may require someone with less urgent symptoms to wait while care is being administered to other patients. Our goal is to provide the care our patients need in a timely manner to help them get on the road to recovery sooner.

We hope you all have a happy, safe, and healthy holiday season!

Avera Medical Group Spencer, Quick Care: (712) 264-3500
Spencer Hospital Emergency Department: (712) 264-6100

  1. children
  2. coronavirus
  3. covid-19
  4. flu
  5. wellness

About The Author

Laura Manwarren

Laura Manwarren, RN, BSN serves as the Director of the Emergency Department at Spencer Hospital.