Knowing when to go, and when to refrain from going to the emergency room can not only save you time, and money, but it can also save your life.

When the flu strikes there is no question that you should be examined by a health care professional, but the question is how urgent is it that you are checked immediately, or can you wait to make a short-notice appointment with your doctor?

The determination of whether or not to go to the emergency room should be based on how ill you are. Also, if there are other chronic conditions present as well. For instance, if someone with diabetes, asthma, COPD or congestive heart failure develops flu symptoms, he/she should be seen within one day by their regular doctor. If a short-notice appointment cannot be made, then a trip to the emergency room is in order.

Pregnant women should also take the flu seriously, more so than non-pregnant women. Other generally healthy people, including children are usually better off staying home, even if they are not eating during their illness. As long as the patient is holding down liquids, there is no immediate health threat if a person, including a child, does not eat for a week, or even two.

The following symptoms may indicate that the patient may need antiviral drugs like Tamiflu, or even the need for hospitalization:

•    Fever of 102 degrees or higher
•    Serious fatigue
•    Stubborn cough with either yellow or green phlegm
•    Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
•    Confusion
•    Feeling light-headed or thirsty from dehydration which can be caused by vomiting and/or diarrhea.

Josyann Abisaab, MD, is an emergency room physician at New York-Presbyterian, as well as an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College.