When Should I Go to Urgent Care for Flu?

If you experience severe flu symptoms like trouble breathing, high fever, or dehydration, go to urgent care for flu treatment.

It’s vital to know when to get help for flu symptoms during this season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say you might see flu symptoms within 1 to 4 days after getting sick. These symptoms can be fever, chills, cough, sore throat, congestion, headache, fatigue, and upset stomach.1 The flu strikes fast, so if you feel these symptoms, it’s essential to seek testing for the flu and COVID-19 quickly.

If you get the flu, you can often treat it at home by resting and taking over-the-counter medicines. But, there are signs that mean you should get medical help right away. These signs are finding it hard to breathe, a very painful chest, lips or face turning blue, and feeling confused.1 If you or someone you know have these symptoms, going to urgent care or the emergency room is wise. In urgent care, you might get antiviral drugs like Tamiflu if diagnosed early. But they will also look after you closely to catch any issues early.1

Key Takeaways

  • Get tested for both the flu and COVID-19 as soon as you develop flu-like symptoms.
  • Seek urgent care for mild to moderate flu symptoms, such as fever, cough, and body aches.
  • Visit the emergency room for severe flu symptoms, including difficulty breathing, high fever, and confusion.
  • Urgent care clinics can provide prompt diagnosis, antiviral treatment, and supportive care for the flu.
  • Preventive measures like the annual flu vaccine can help reduce your risk of contracting the flu.

Understanding Flu Symptoms

The flu is a contagious illness that comes on fast. It brings fever, chills, cough, sore throat, and more.2 Knowing these signs helps in getting the right care.

Fever and Chills

Fever and chills mark the flu.2 A high fever over 101 degrees that lasts could signal other issues, like pneumonia.2 Tackling a severe sore throat quickly can improve things in 24 to 48 hours.2

Cough and Sore Throat

A dry cough and sore throat are common with the flu.2 Some symptoms like diarrhea aren’t usually tied to flu. But if they are serious, seek care fast to avoid dehydration.2

Fatigue and Body Aches

Extreme tiredness and body aches are flu clues.2 Though rare, severe breathing issues need quick care.2 Dizziness without other big symptoms could mean dehydration—see a doctor if it doesn’t stop.2

The flu hits quickly, unlike colds or COVID-19. Quick care is key for the right treatment.2 Texas MedClinics has tests to find out what’s wrong fast.2

Distinguishing Flu from Other Illnesses

It’s hard to tell the flu apart from COVID-19 or a cold because they have similar symptoms. But, each illness has its own characteristics. The flu starts quickly, showing signs like fever, chills, cough, and body aches.3 It’s known for causing a dry cough, which doesn’t make you produce mucus. The flu’s symptoms don’t usually include stuffy or runny noses.4

Differentiating Flu from COVID-19

Flu and COVID-19 have many similar signs, but there are key differences. COVID-19 symptoms show up about five days after getting the virus, but it can take up to 14 days.3 People can spread COVID-19 up to two days before symptoms start, which doesn’t happen with the flu.

With the flu, you can give it to others about a day before your symptoms appear.3 Also, COVID-19 lets you spread the virus for longer after symptoms show, more than 10 days. This is longer than the flu.3

Ruling Out Common Colds

A cold is usually not too serious and has mild symptoms.4 The flu’s symptoms, like fever and body aches, are usually more severe. They also start suddenly.4 The flu has a dry cough, while colds tend to cause mucus.

Fever is also more likely with the flu than with a cold.4

As soon as you feel sick, getting tested is key. It helps to figure out what’s wrong so you can get the right care. This is very important because flu, COVID-19, and colds can all seem similar at first.3

differentiating flu from covid

Severe Flu Symptoms Requiring Urgent Care

Most flu cases get better with rest and OTC meds.1 But some cases turn severe, needing quick medical help. Symptoms like hard breathing, bad chest pain, blue skin, and being confused show this need.

Difficulty Breathing

Hard breathing could mean the flu is very serious.1 If someone in your family has trouble breathing, they need help right away. Don’t wait to go to the doctor or ER.

High Fever and Dehydration

5 Having a fever over 101°F for days or not dropping with medicine is a red flag. It could mean you need quick medical attention. So is severe dehydration from the flu.

See also  Easy Tips to Recover from the Flu Fast

Chest Pain and Confusion

1 If breathing problems, bad chest pain, or being confused happens, it’s an emergency. Go to the ER. This advice is especially for high-risk people, like the old, babies, or those with sickness.

When Should I Go to Urgent Care for Flu?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, people often waited to see how flu symptoms developed.1 Now, experts advise getting tested for flu and COVID-19 if you show symptoms.1 Urgent care clinics can help with mild to moderate flu symptoms. They offer testing, diagnosis, and medications.6 If symptoms are severe or you’re in a high-risk group, go to the emergency room.1

Decide on urgent care or the emergency room by your symptom’s severity.1 Urgent care is good for regular flu signs like fevers or aches.1 But, if you have chest pain or trouble breathing, go to the emergency room.1

Urgent Care for FluEmergency Room for Flu
  • Mild to moderate flu symptoms
  • High fever (99-101°F)
  • Body aches, congestion, cough
  • Urgent care can test, diagnose, and prescribe antivirals
  • 26

  • Severe flu symptoms
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • High fever (above 101°F) for more than a couple of days
  • Part of a high-risk group
  • 1

The choice between urgent care and the ER depends on how serious your symptoms are.1 If you’re not sure, choose caution and get medical help for the right diagnosis and care.1

Benefits of Visiting Urgent Care for Flu

When you get the flu, quick medical help matters a lot. It can shorten how long you’re sick and how bad you feel. Going to urgent care has many pluses, like faster healing and avoiding high ER costs.5

Prompt Diagnosis and Treatment

Finding out you have the flu early, say within two days, is key. An urgent care doctor might prescribe something like Tamiflu if caught soon enough.5 This med could make your flu not last as long or feel as harsh. It helps you bounce back quicker. Urgent cares are set up to test you fast and watch for any serious issues. They can give you what you need to heal.5

Avoiding Emergency Room Costs

Urgent care is usually cheaper than the ER for mild to medium flu cases.7 It might cost between $100 and $200 if you don’t have insurance, but prices can vary a lot.7 Waiting at urgent care is also shorter, about 15 minutes to an hour on average.7 With insurance, you might have to pay some fees, but these are lower than ER bills.7 For folks with no insurance, some places offer deals on prices or ways to pay later.7

Going to urgent care for the flu means you’ll get quick help that doesn’t cost as much. This works great if your symptoms are not too severe. You’ll avoid long waits and big bills from going to the ER, which is a big win for many.

What to Expect at an Urgent Care for Flu

Feeling like you have the flu? Visit your nearby urgent care first. They can help you figure out if it’s the flu or COVID-19.5 It’s hard to know just by symptoms since they’re so similar.5

Testing and Diagnosis

At urgent care, you’ll get a fast flu test. Results in 15 minutes.5 This quick test means quick answers and the right treatment. If it’s the flu, they might give you medicine to make it milder and shorter.5

Antiviral Medications

Medicines like Tamiflu work best within 48 hours of the first symptom.5 They stop the flu virus from spreading in your body. Your doctor will see if you should get this medicine based on your health.5

Supportive Care and Monitoring

Urgent cares also help by giving IV fluids for dehydration and checking your chest for serious infections like pneumonia.1 They keep an eye on you too. If things get worse, they can help you get to the hospital.1

Urgent care offers complete care for the flu.1 With testing, the right medicine, and extra support, you can get better faster. It also lowers the risk of serious flu problems.51

Flu Prevention Strategies

The top way to avoid the flu is by getting the flu shot every year. It aims at the most common flu strains.8 This can also help with COVID-19.8

Annual Flu Vaccination

It’s key to get your flu shot once a year.8 Places where many get vaccinated use smart plans like rewards, no-cost shots, better chances to get one, having to say no if you won’t, and must shots. This has lifted the number of healthcare workers getting their shot.8

Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette

Along with the flu shot, it’s important to keep hands clean and cover your mouth when you cough.8 Also, ways to lower catching the flu include checking those who feel sick first, telling people to cover up when they cough, and putting up notes that show what to do.8

Avoiding Close Contact with Sick Individuals

Staying away from sick folks is crucial to not get the flu. Especially when flu season is up, try not to see people who might be sick.8 Make sure anyone coughing or sneezing knows to keep it clean, and always follow rules when visiting a medical place.8

High-Risk Groups and Flu Complications

Some people have a higher chance of serious flu complications. These include the elderly, young children, and those with specific health issues.9 If they get the flu, they might face problems like pneumonia or need to be in the hospital.1 For these at-risk groups, getting the flu shot every year is very important. They should also see a doctor quickly if they start to feel like they have the flu.9

Elderly and Young Children

The flu can hit kids under 12 months and adults over 65 hard.9 They are more likely to suffer from serious flu side effects, needing hospital care.9

Pregnant Women

Pregnancy makes flu risks higher.9 Pregnant women are at greater risk. They must focus on stopping the flu and get medical help at the first sign of symptoms.

Chronic Medical Conditions

Health conditions like asthma or diabetes increase flu risks.9 A weak immune system from illness or medicine can make catching the flu easier.9 Doctors might give high-risk people special flu drugs to help prevent serious sickness.9

When to Seek Emergency Care for Flu

The flu might bring minor symptoms. You can often deal with them by resting, drinking fluids, and taking over-the-counter drugs. But, certain severe symptoms of the flu need quick emergency care.5 If you or someone you know has these severe symptoms, going to the emergency room or calling 911 is a must.

Severe Shortness of Breath

Feeling short of breath, even when you’re resting, is a serious flu complication. If you or someone has trouble breathing or their lips or face turn blue, get emergency help right away.

Persistent Fever and Dehydration

2 With the flu, you might have a fever between 99-101 degrees. But, if your fever stays over 101 degrees for several days and you can’t hydrate yourself, this could be dangerous.2 Severe dehydration from the flu is a severe problem.

Signs of Pneumonia or Sepsis

Sometimes the flu can lead to serious issues like pneumonia or sepsis. If you have ongoing chest pain, feel confused, or show these severe problem signs, get medical help right away.

If flu symptoms are life-threatening, the emergency room is the best place for them. While urgent care clinics can help with non-life-threatening symptoms quickly, they’re not the right place for severe cases. When in doubt, it’s safer to choose overcaution and seek immediate help.

Self-Care and Recovery from Flu

When getting over the flu, focusing on self-care is key. Rest a lot and drink plenty of fluids.10 It’s also smart to take over-the-counter medicines.10 These can help lower fever and make you feel less achy.10

Rest and Hydration

Rest and water are crucial while fighting the flu.11 The flu’s full recovery time is around a few days to two weeks.11 Eating well and drinking lots of water fight the flu too.11

Over-the-Counter Medications

Using over-the-counter drugs is important to manage flu symptoms. These include medicines like ibuprofen and acetaminophen.11 They work to lower fever and ease body aches.11 Also, these medications help with symptoms like fever and cough.11

Monitoring for Complications

Monitoring for flu complications is crucial during recovery. Be on the lookout for any serious signs. Seek medical help if you have a high fever that won’t go away, if you can’t breathe well, or if you feel sicker. Quick action helps prevent major health issues.10

Recognizing Flu Warning Signs in Children

As flu season nears, it’s key for parents to know the flu’s red flags. Many kids can recover at home, but critical signs should alert you.

Rapid Breathing or Difficulty Breathing

If your child breathes rapidly or labors to breathe, it’s worrisome. This might be a sign of a severe flu issue. Urgent care is needed.

Bluish Skin Color

Watch for a bluish skin, lips, or nails. It shows oxygen is low, demanding quick action.

Not Drinking Enough Fluids

Flu often dehydrates kids. Signs include less urination, dry lips, and deep-set eyes. If seen, medical help is crucial.12

If signs like these show up, swift action is necessary. Take your child to urgent care or ER. Acting fast on flu signs prevents severe issues and speeds up their recovery time.


It’s important to know when to go to urgent care for the flu. First, get tested for both flu and COVID-19 early if you feel sick. Symptoms can look the same without testing. This can help doctors treat you right.

For mild to moderate flu signs like fever, cough, and body aches, go to urgent care. They offer quick help and advice. If your symptoms are bad like trouble breathing or high fever, go to the emergency room fast. This is for more serious care.13,14

Prevention is key. Get your flu shot, keep clean, and avoid being too close to sick people. These steps lower your chance of getting the flu. Knowing when to get help is also important. It means you can get better care and recover from the flu sooner.14

Knowing when to choose urgent care is very important, especially in the flu season from October to late April.14 Stay alert, get checked if you’re sick, and don’t wait if symptoms are severe.


When should I go to urgent care for the flu?

If you’re feeling bad with the flu, urgent care is best if your symptoms are not too severe. They’ll quickly check you out and treat you. But, if things seem worse with trouble breathing or a really high fever, head to the emergency room.

What are the common symptoms of the flu?

The flu often starts with a high fever and chills. You might also feel really tired. It brings a cough, sore throat, and aches all over your body. This can make you want to stay in bed for days.

How can I tell if I have the flu, COVID-19, or a common cold?

In the beginning, they can seem alike. Flu hits you fast with high fever and chills, making everything hurt. It gives you a dry cough. To be sure, get tested as soon as you feel sick.

What are the severe symptoms of the flu that require urgent care?

If you seem to be getting worse, pay attention to how you breathe. Severe chest pain, confusion, or lips turning blue are not good signs. A very high fever that won’t go down might mean you need more help. Also, not being able to drink or dehydration is serious.

How can urgent care help with the flu?

Urgent care checks and treats the flu fast. They might give you antiviral drugs or fluids to help you feel better. This is to stop the flu from getting worse and to make sure you’re okay.

What can I do to prevent the flu?

Getting the flu shot is the best way to not get sick. Always wash your hands, cover your coughs, and keep away from people who are ill. These simple steps can stop the flu from spreading.

Who is at higher risk for severe complications from the flu?

Older people, kids, pregnant women, and those with health problems are more at risk. They might get very sick and need more care, like going to the hospital.

When should I seek emergency care for the flu?

Emergency care is needed if you’re really struggling to breathe, have a high fever that won’t go down, or are very dehydrated. These are critical signs that mean you need help right away.

How can I care for myself while recovering from the flu?

Rest and drink lots of fluids for a good recovery. It’s okay to take fever-reducing medicine. Just be on the lookout for any severe signs, and get help if things don’t get better.

What flu warning signs should I watch for in children?

Watch your child’s breathing and look for any unusual skin color. If they’re not drinking enough, they may need quick medical help. This could be at an urgent care or by going to the emergency room.

Source Links

  1. https://expresserabilene.com/blog/should-i-go-to-urgent-care-or-the-emergency-room-for-flu/
  2. https://www.texasmedclinic.com/is-it-just-the-flu-when-and-why-to-go-to-urgent-care/
  3. https://health.unl.edu/covid-19-vs-flu-and-common-cold
  4. https://healthy.kaiserpermanente.org/health-wellness/respiratory-infection/know-symptoms
  5. https://medhelpclinics.com/resources/illnesses-signs-symptoms-treatments/when-you-should-go-to-urgent-care-for-flu
  6. https://www.afcurgentcare.com/braintree/blog/when-should-i-go-to-urgent-care-for-the-flu/
  7. https://medicalhousecalls.com/when-to-go-to-urgent-care-for-flu/
  8. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/infectioncontrol/healthcaresettings.htm
  9. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/flu/expert-answers/flu-symptoms/faq-20057983
  10. https://www.wellnow.com/urgent-care-resources/treatment-for-the-flu-what-you-need-to-know/
  11. https://www.1ststopurgentcare.com/blog/get-rid-of-the-flu-top-urgent-care-tips-for-recovery
  12. https://www.childrens.com/health-wellness/sick-with-the-flu-know-when-to-go-to-the-er-infographic
  13. https://yourkidsurgentcare.com/when-a-child-needs-to-go-to-urgent-care-for-flu/
  14. https://lagunabeachuc.com/flu-symptoms-and-treatment-guide/