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Family lying sick in bed with the flu, blowing their noses

Tackling Flu Season: How to Stay Healthy & When to Call the Clinic


By Kristy Warren

A bout with the flu can leave us asking "did anyone get the number of that bus?" Experts warn flu may hit especially hard this season, and with Coronavirus COVID-19 still spreading widely across the U.S., flu season is poised to be extra challenging again this year. Liz Koury, PA-C  of the Laurel Health Centers shares tips on how you can stay healthy and ensure you and your family have peak protection.  

 

WHAT IS INFLUENZA (FLU)?

 

Influenza, commonly known as “the flu,” is a virus that infects the respiratory tract—the nose, throat, and lungs. It can sicken people of all ages, but certain groups of people are more likely to experience severe symptoms or flu complications. Flu can spell misery with body aches, chills, cough, fever, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, and fatigue. While some cases of flu are fairly mild, others leave patients feeling like they’ve “been hit by a bus.” The flu can be fatal. Those most at risk for severe complications or death are those 65+; the very young; those with underlying health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or asthma; and immunocompromised patients.

 

Flu season refers to when the seasonal flu is spreading most widely, typically beginning in October and lasting through April or May. The upcoming holidays and cold weather drive us to spend more time indoors with others, often in close quarters, which allows the virus to spread easily from person to person. 

 

Liz Koury, PA-C shares helpful tips in the short video below on how you can protect yourself this flu season.


HOW CAN WE PROTECT OURSELVES & OTHERS FROM CATCHING THE FLU?

 

  • Get a flu shot this fall, preferably in October to ensure protection lasts all flu season


  • Wash your hands often for 20 seconds with soap & warm water


  • Clean commonly touched surfaces and items in your home more often like countertops, handles, light switches, remotes, phones, and electronics


  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, dispose of it, and then wash your hands; if you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into the crook of your elbow instead of your hands


  • Support your body’s immune response by eating well and staying hydrated


  • Monitor your symptoms: if your symptoms aren’t improving over time or worsen, call your family provider for guidance


  • Stay home when you’re feeling sick

 

THE BEST TIME TO GET A FLU SHOT

 

It’s important to get a flu shot each year. Because there are so many different strains of flu, the most prominent strains circulating can change each year. Your yearly flu shot helps protect you from contracting the flu by protecting you against the strains expected to be most prevalent during flu season. They also reduce your likelihood of getting seriously ill if you contract flu from another strain, as they help your body prepare to recognize and fight off the virus.

 

October is the best time to get your flu shot in our area for full season-long protection because flu season can last well into spring. The Laurel Health Centers are offering flu shots by appointment all October long. With COVID-19 also heavily circulating this year, it's especially important to protect your family from flu to avoid potential overlap in illness that may compound or worsen symptoms. 

The Laurel Health Centers are offering flu shots by appointment all October long.

With COVID-19 also circulating this year, it's especially important to protect your family from flu to avoid potential overlap in illness that may compound or worsen symptoms. 

To schedule your flu shot for peak protection, call us at 1-833-LAURELHC (1-833-528-7354) today!

Flu Shot Syringe, Get vaccinated this fall at the Laurel Health Centers

While we may only think about coming to the doctor’s office when we’re feeling sick, it’s important to make time for preventive health measures like flu shots and physicals.

 

The Laurel Health Centers have rigorous safety measures in place to see patients safely throughout the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. All Laurel Health locations offer both onsite appointments and telemedicine visits by phone and video chat.

 

STOMACH BUGS ARE NOT SEASONAL INFLUENZA

 

What people call “the stomach flu” is not seasonal influenza, and the flu shot does not protect people from contracting “stomach bugs.” While some people, particularly children, may experience some GI upset when sick with seasonal influenza, the persistent vomiting, cramps, or diarrhea associated with a “stomach bug” are the result of gastroenteritis.

Man suffering from stomach pain, cramps

Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the GI tract that results in the symptoms ascribed to “the stomach flu” like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps. It can be caused by many different sources like bacteria, viruses, parasites, and food reactions. Washing your hands, drinking clean water, keeping your distance from those who are sick, and properly preparing your food are the best ways to protect against gastroenteritis.

TELLING FLU AND COVID-19 SYMPTOMS APART

 

COVID-19 and influenza (the flu) are both viruses, which means antibiotics do not work to treat them. They also both affect our respiratory tract, and as a result, can share some similar symptoms like coughing and runny / stuffy nose. However, there are ways to help distinguish between them.

 

One key difference between the flu and COVID-19 is that many COVID-19 patients experience a noticeable change in or loss of taste and / or smell. COVID-19 also tends to have a dry cough instead of one that brings up mucus or phlegm.

 

Another difference is each virus’s incubation period. While the flu has a sudden onset of symptoms, COVID-19 symptoms can develop more gradually over time. COVID-19 is more contagious than the seasonal flu and has a longer incubation period. This long incubation period means patients are contagious before they even realize they are sick, which is why preventive measures like social distancing and masking are so important—someone who doesn’t look or feel sick can still be infected and shed the COVID-19 virus to infect others.

 

It is important to remember that we are all different and as a result, we won’t always experience the same set of symptoms when sick with COVID-19 or the flu. To get a proper diagnosis, you should always call your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider can order testing to help confirm which illness you have. 

When trying to evaluate our own symptoms, it is important to remember that common symptoms aren’t a guaranteed checklist.

Turn to a professional instead of relying on self-diagnosing, as your provider can fully evaluate your symptoms and order testing you to determine your illness. 
If you have respiratory symptoms and are concerned you may have been exposed to COVID-19, you should always call your healthcare provider for a full evaluation. 

Need a provider? Visit our provider page

Sick woman blowing her nose in bed

WHEN TO CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER

 

It’s important to be properly evaluated by your healthcare provider to determine which illness you have and how best to treat it. If you have a fever and respiratory symptoms, are experiencing serious or worsening symptoms of any kind, your symptoms aren’t improving over time, or you suspect you may have been exposed to COVID-19, always call your healthcare provider for guidance. 

 

Still need your flu shot or COVID-19 vaccine? Laurel Health has you covered. To schedule your flu shot and COVID-19 shot for peak protection, call the Laurel Health Centers today at 1-833-LAURELHC (1-833-528-7354) and select the location of your choice.

 

Laurel Health offers eight convenient family medicine and pediatrics locations throughout Tioga and Bradford Counties. To find a center near you, click here to visit our contact and locations page.

 

To make an appointment with Liz Koury, call 570-724-1010

 

To learn more about cold and flu prevention, stay stay tuned to our news page or visit us on Facebook at facebook.com/laurelhc.

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