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Healthcare 101: What’s new with flu?

It’s that time of year again! Fall is sweeping in, bringing pumpkin spiced lattes, beautiful leaf colors and — dunh dunh DUNH — viruses.

Here’s what you need to know to about flu season:

When is the best time to get my flu shot?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccine effectiveness can drop by 6 to 11 percent each month after you get the shot. Their experts recommend getting the shot in October to have the most protection during the peak of flu season — usually between December and February.

Which flu shot should I get?

 This season, our urgent care centers offer the quadrivalent standard flu shot and the trivalent high-dose flu shot. The CDC recommends the standard shot for most children and adults, while the high-dose shot is best for people 65 years and older.

How can I protect my family from flu this season?

 Influenza is unpredictable, and flu viruses mutate constantly. While a yearly flu vaccine should be your first step in fighting off flu, everyday actions matter, too:

  • Wash your hands to reduce the spread of germs.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay away from sick people — and stay home from work or school if you are sick!
  • If you think you have the flu, get tested.

How can a (timely!) flu test help?

If you experience flu-like symptoms, visit a doctor right away to get tested. The CDC reports that common flu symptoms include a cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, body aches, chills, headaches and fatigue. Many people also develop a fever.

You might be wondering: Why bother dragging myself somewhere (PCP, urgent care, or elsewhere) to get tested? How can they help if I already have the flu?

The short answer: They can offer antiviral drugs! If you are diagnosed within 48 hours of when your flu symptoms started, an antiviral medication like Tamiflu may make your illness shorter and less intense.

Antiviral drugs are only available with a prescription. Flu tests for quick diagnosis are available at our urgent care centers with extended hours, seven days a week.

How long will I be sick if I get the flu?

If you do come down with flu, expect to be under the weather for at least 3 to 7 days. (Hopefully, antiviral drugs will put you on the shorter end of that timeline.) In more complicated or severe cases, cough and discomfort may linger for two weeks or more.

Is there a way to see how bad the flu is in my state?

Yes! Check out this national flu dashboard to see the latest numbers on how many patients are reporting to health care providers with a flu-like illness.