Commentary: Flu packs a punch this season; get your shot
If you think that you might have the flu, you have a good reason for concern. This year’s flu outbreak is hitting California particularly hard, with some areas of the state experiencing a sixfold increase in cases from last year — and the season hasn’t even hit its peak.
Despite the severity of this year’s influenza season, don’t head to the emergency room at the first sign of fever.
Emergency departments were created to handle emergencies — heart attacks, strokes, severe trauma and other life-threatening emergencies. No matter how awful it feels, the flu typically doesn’t fall into this category — unless you are in a high-risk category for complications. This includes children younger than 2, adults over 65, women who are pregnant or anyone with certain chronic health conditions.
If you are not in a high-risk category and feel the flu coming on, seeking treatment at an urgent care facility will not only help save you time and money, but it also keeps emergency rooms clear for those whose lives depend upon immediate treatment. Urgent cares also provide expert care for conditions such as colds, sore throats, ear infections, sprains, strains and more, often at lower costs and shorter wait times.
Plus, urgent cares are easier to access. Hoag operates urgent care locations throughout Orange County, open seven days a week including evenings and weekends, and most urgent cares are found in neighborhoods or near shopping centers closer to where most people live and work.
While this year’s flu season has hit particularly hard, antiviral medications can make the flu less severe for patients in need, if taken within a few days of the first flu symptoms appearing. Your primary care or urgent care provider can best assess your health and prescribe the right medications when appropriate.
Of course, an even better solution to the epidemic is to avoid getting the flu altogether. Here, again, urgent cares offer an answer, as they are an excellent place to receive the flu vaccine.
While the CDC recommends that people get their flu shot by the end of October, vaccines can still be beneficial well into the season. Even if you get the flu, it can reduce the severity of symptoms considerably. So, if you haven’t received your vaccine yet, roll up your sleeve and get your shot.
There are also simple things we should all be doing every day for ourselves and our families’ health — wash our hands frequently, cover our coughs, and if we find ourselves sick, stay home.
And if you are experiencing flu symptoms and need medical care, don’t despair. If you’re otherwise healthy, head to an urgent care.
You’ll feel better and you’ll keep the county’s emergency care system healthier too.
DR. PHILIP ROBINSON is Hoag Hospital’s medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology.
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