NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The CDC is now reporting widespread flu activity in 30 states with an increasing number of patients being sent to the hospital.

Despite the dangers associated with the illness, experts say most healthy people with the flu should avoid the emergency room.

Current CDC estimates show as many as 9.6 million people have now been sick with the flu so far this season. Up to half visited a doctor and as many as 114,000 have been hospitalized.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in the amount of flu-like illness,” Dr. Jeremy Thomas said.

Dr. Thomas from University of Alabama at Birmingham has a message for otherwise healthy people with flu-like symptoms such as fever and body aches – avoid the E.R., call a primary care provider, or visit an urgent care clinic instead.

“Most healthy patients who have no other significant medical issues are adequate just treating at home with good hydration and over the counter medications,” Thomas explained.

The physician added that those patients can expose other critical patients in the emergency. On the flip side, if a person doesn’t have the flu, they can also pick up the flu or another illnesses while waiting for treatment.

Doctors caution there are symptoms that warrant a trip to the emergency room, even for the typically healthy.

Vomiting, diarrhea, inability to hold down medications or fluids at home… increasing shortness of breath, low blood pressure, and high heart rate – that may be a sign of dehydration,” Dr. Thomas warns.

Doctors say children under five, people over 65, and those with underlying health problems should consider an emergency room visit because they are at high risk for complications of the flu.

Doctors also say overcrowding in hospitals is common during this time of year; another reason for generally healthy people to stay home as they deal with the flu.