Since the flu season began, on Sept. 30, 6 to 8 million Americans have gotten sick.

In Arkansas, about 500 to 700 people are going to the emergency room every week, with flu, colds and other respiratory infections.

Doctor Gary Wheeler is the Chief Medical Officer at the Arkansas Department of health.

He said, not everyone who gets a common cold or the flu will have to go to the doctor. However, those who are at risk should go to the doctor as soon as they show symptoms as a measure of precaution.

The risk groups include small children, pregnant women and the elderly.

He said there are also some symptoms that indicate you should seek medical attention.

“Respiratory complaints, difficulty breathing, or a change in mental status would be the most important things to go see a physician for,” said Dr. Wheeler.

Dr. Wheeler said most colds and even the flu can be treated with over the counter medicine.

“You almost never use antibiotics to treat influenza related disease,” said Wheeler. “However, you may need an antiviral, there are drugs that are specifically anti-influenza drugs, the most common one that you use is Tamiflu, that’s the brand name.”

Additionally, Doctor Wheeler recommended plenty of rest and drinking plenty of fluids. He said as far as preventing the disease from spreading, it’s always best to stay away from others.

“Children who are ill and have respiratory infections really need to not be in contact with other kids because they will spread their infection,” said Dr. Wheeler.

He said, when it comes to the flu, children and adults can go back to their normal activities after they are no longer contagious.

“Usually, the flu is spread during the first five to six days of infection from the tome of onset symptoms so if you are beyond that period, it’s okay to go back to work,” said Dr. Wheeler.