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Know When to Seek Care for Colds & Flu

As respiratory illnesses such as colds, flu, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus — known as RSV — make the rounds this fall and winter, you or a loved one might end up catching something, despite your best efforts at prevention. (See article on previous page for prevention tips.)

“Though the fever, chills, runny noses and sore throats may be very uncomfortable, these symptoms usually aren’t dangerous and are best cared for at home with rest, fluids and over‑the‑counter medicines for pain or fever,” said Physician Assistant Hank Wright of SamCare Express — Corvallis.

For symptoms of a cold, flu, COVID-19 or RSV, remember the following guidelines:

  • Stay home to avoid passing your illness to others.
  • Help manage symptoms with proper nutrition, hydration and rest.
  • Use over-the-counter medicine such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to manage fever and pain. Never give aspirin to children.

Your pharmacist is often a great resource for guidance on over‑the‑counter medications.

So, how do you know when to call the doctor or make an appointment? Should you go to a walk-in clinic or an emergency department?

If you or your child have these symptoms, seek care immediately at an emergency department:

  • Difficult, abnormal or very rapid breathing.
  • Audible wheezing.
  • Appearing blue or pale.
  • Chest pain.
  • Pain with breathing.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Confusion.
  • Severe headache.
  • Dehydration in a young child or infant (not urinating; no tears when crying).
  • Fever over 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • A rash that looks like bruising or broken blood vessels.

If you or your child experience the following symptoms, call your primary care provider for an appointment or visit a walk-in clinic:

  • Sinus pain and/or pressure.
  • Sore throat.
  • Ear pain.
  • Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea. 
  • Rash. 
  • Headache (not severe). 
  • Body aches. 
  • Coughing.

“These symptoms could mean something more serious, but usually cold and flu symptoms can be safely and effectively cared for at home,” said Wright. “If you are on the fence and feeling unsure about whether you need to be seen, sometimes a telemedicine appointment or a quick MyChart E-Visit can give you the opportunity to run your symptoms by a health care provider and put your mind at ease.”

For some patients with flu, the antiviral medication Tamiflu can shorten the duration of symptoms if started within 48 hours of symptoms starting. For patients with COVID-19 who are at higher risk of severe disease, there are antiviral medications which, if started early, can reduce the chance of hospitalization or severe illness.

Employers and educators should also allow people to care for their respiratory illnesses at home.

“If your employees or students have to miss work or school, please do not require a doctor’s note that will force them to seek immediate attention in an urgent care or ED,” Wright said. “These unnecessary visits place strain on our emergency departments, urgent cares and clinics.”

SamCare Express — Corvallis is located in the new Oregon State University Health Center, next to Reser Stadium at 850 SW 26th St. and is open seven days a week.

Do you need help finding a primary care provider? Visit or call 800-863-5241 for assistance.