By Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) – When we talk about who is most vulnerable from the flu, we usually mention the elderly, babies and young children, pregnant women and people with certain chronic medical conditions like asthma, cancer, and heart disease.

While the vast majority of healthy kids and adults recover just fine, some do get sick enough to require hospitalization and some unfortunately die.

flu Dr. Mallika Marshall Answers Questions About The Flu

Flu shot (WBZ-TV)

Therefore it is crucial that everyone gets vaccinated on an annual basis, to not only protect yourself but also protect the people around you.

Question: What should you look out for that might be an indication that you don’t just have an average case of the flu but that you might need to get to a doctor?

The flu typically causes fever, body aches, cough and headache.  You feel awful but if you’re managing your symptoms well at home with fever and pain reducers and you’re able to stay well hydrated, you’re probably okay.

But most people who die from the flu die from pneumonia, either from the influenza virus itself or from a bacterial infection that can develop on top of the flu.

So if you develop shortness of breath, chest pain, worsening cough or can’t keep fluids down, you should call your doctor or get to an emergency room.

Question: Are there medications that you can take to treat the flu itself?

There are anti-flu medications which, if given within the first couple of days of illness, can help prevent complications, but these drugs are usually reserved for those at higher risk of complication, such as people with certain underlying conditions like asthma or even pregnant women.

So if you have flu-like symptoms and you’re pregnant or you have underlying medical problems, call your doctor to see if you might need to take one of these prescribed medications.

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