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How to Protect Yourself This Flu Season

Q&A with Laurel Health Centers' Angela Dixon, CRNP

 

by Kristy Warren - September 25, 2020

With COVID-19 still spreading across the U.S., flu season is poised to be especially challenging this year. Angela Dixon, CRNP, of the Laurel Health Centers shares tips on how you can ensure your family has peak protection this flu season.

What can we do to protect ourselves and others from flu?

  • Get a flu shot this fall
  • Frequently wash your hands for a full 20 seconds
  • 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 immediately; if you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into the crook of your elbow instead of your hands
  • Stay home when you’re feeling sick
  • Support your body’s immune response by eating well and staying hydrated
  • Monitor your symptoms: if they aren’t improving over time or get worse, call your family provider for guidance

When is the best time to get a flu shot?

Since the prominent flu strains can change each year, flu shots are recommended annually. October is the best time to get your flu shot in our area for full season-long protection, as flu season can last well into spring. 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.
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.

How can we tell 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, sneezing, and sore throats, but 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.

Another major 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 shedding 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. 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.

Note: “Stomach flu” is a misnomer and does not refer to seasonal influenza; gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the GI tract that results in the symptoms ascribed to “the stomach flu.” It can be caused by many different sources like bacteria, viruses, parasites, and food reactions. A flu shot does not protect against stomach bugs; washing your hands, drinking clean water, and properly preparing your food are the best ways to protect against gastroenteritis.

When should we call our healthcare provider?

When you are feeling ill, it’s always 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, or suspect you may have been exposed to COVID-19, always call ahead to your healthcare provider for guidance. Laurel Health offers seven convenient family medicine and pediatrics locations throughout Tioga County. To find a center near you, visit laurelhc.org.

To schedule your flu shot for peak protection, call the Laurel Health Centers today at 1-833-LAURELHC (1-833-528-7354)! To learn more about cold and flu prevention, visit laurelhc.org.

Credits:

Videography: Andrew Moore

Video Editing: Andrew Moore

Writing: Kristy Warren

Anchor: Sara Vogt

 

Produced by Vogt Media

Funded by Laurel Health Centers

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