If you think you’re sick with the flu, you should likely stay home and rest instead of calling an ambulance or going to the emergency room.
Local emergency medical services, including emergency rooms and ambulances, are “nearing capacity,” according to a San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department news release.
“These emergency resources are here for people who are very sick or injured and need immediate treatment for potentially life-threatening conditions. Using emergency resources to seek treatment for regular cases of flu detracts from our community's ability to provide critical medical care to those who need it most,” the release said.
Penny Borenstein, health department director, said emergency services providers began struggling about a week to two weeks ago. To make matters worse, patients began seeking treatment at the same time many care providers also became sick, she said.
“We’re trying to help them manage a very overwhelming number of patients and transports entering the ER,” she said.
Flu patients who visit the hospital will likely encounter long waits, as severely ill and injured patients are seen first, according to the release. A visit to the hospital also exposes patients and their families to other contagious illnesses.
The flu can be “serious and overwhelming,” causing patients to think their illnesses are worse than they are, Borenstein said.
Many patients also remain sick for some time, causing them to visit the emergency room when they don’t feel better quickly.
“Most cases of flu can be managed at home,” Borenstein said.
Even so, public health officials suggest those at risk for serious flu complications visit their primary care provider or an urgent-care clinic. Those experiencing severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, chest or abdominal pain, confusion, dizziness or severe vomiting should seek medical attention.
The county has seen an uptick in flu cases this season. Flu cases usually begin in October or November and peak between December and February before tapering off in the spring.
For more information, visit cdc.gov/flu.