Ways to Prepare for an Active Flu Season
While flu numbers have been low in the last few years, health care experts predict a more active flu season.
Early signs show an increase in flu cases throughout the country, including the Tampa Bay area.
To help you prepare for the flu season ahead, Dr. Nathan Keith Waldrep, assistant chief medical officer for BayCare Ambulatory Services, provides recommendations on how to keep you and your family safe.
Dr. Waldrep, who has helped treat and diagnose flu patients for decades, recommends getting the flu vaccine as soon as possible. Given the previous low influenza numbers due to COVID safety precautions, many people may have a reduced immunity against newer strains of flu. The vaccine will help decrease the severity of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and even deaths. The flu shot also is safe to take when you’re in the process of getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Flu vaccines are available to everyone six months and older.
Signs and Symptoms
Flu, also known as influenza, is a respiratory infection that affects the nose, throat, and lungs. Flu can be very contagious and can vary from minor to severe. This infection hits its peak in fall through winter months and can spread quickly in various environments, affecting children and adults of all ages. Flu signs and symptoms usually happen suddenly and in different ways. Flu symptoms can include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle and body aches, headaches, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea.
If you get sick with flu, antiviral medications may be good treatment options. Dr. Waldrep says antiviral drugs can help reduce symptoms and shorten the time a person is sick with flu and viral infections. These medications also can prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia. If you’re at high risk for flu complications, always check with your physician before using any medications. These drugs must be given early in the course of illness, so don’t delay seeking care if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms.
Difference Between Flu and COVID-19
Some flu symptoms are similar to COVID-19 that at times can be difficult to tell the difference between the two. However, diagnostic testing helps determine if you are sick with flu or COVID-19. If you think you need to get tested, see a health care provider at the nearest BayCare Urgent Care locations, where both flu and COVID-19 testing options are available.
To help prevent flu and other viral infections, it’s important to continue to practice safety measures. Wash your hands frequently, avoid close contact with people who are sick, cover coughs and sneezes, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. If you’re sick, stay home to prevent infecting others. You should also clean and disinfect surfaces at home, your digital devices and other objects that may be contaminated. If influenza activity is present in your community, consider wearing a mask when in public or group settings.
Get Proper Care
If you think you’re experiencing flu or cold symptoms, BayCare provides convenient access to different care options and services for patients and their families. Patients can conveniently see a doctor using BayCareAnywhere, a 24/7 mobile application offering virtual visits through a smartphone, tablet or computer. They can also see a doctor at Walk-In Care locations at select Publix Pharmacies throughout the Tampa Bay area. BayCare’s 20 urgent care locations throughout Pinellas, Hillsborough, Polk and Pasco counties, also offer quick, high quality health care for adults and children ages two and older.
For more information, visit BayCareGetCareNow.org.