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Should You Get a Flu Shot?

Health Hub
Author name: Dr. Mary Beth Saunders

Vaccination will not only protect you – but family, friends, and the community at large

Sore throat, plugged ears, body aches, chills and fever, and a chronic hacking cough are potential symptoms of the flu

An influenza vaccination can help us avoid all these nasty symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

What’s more, getting vaccinated not only protects us, but also our family, coworkers, and community members. This concept, called “herd immunity,” reduces disease among unimmunized individuals in the community.

Tis' the Season – In More Ways than One

Flu activity, which typically peaks between December and February, can last until May. Dr. Sal Lacagnina, Lee Health’s medical director of wellness and employee health, recommends getting vaccinated sooner than later, though.

It takes two weeks to build immunity,” Dr. Sal says. “You want to be protected before the holiday season starts, when visitors from all over the country and world arrive in Southwest Florida.

Lee Health infectious disease specialist Dr. Mary Beth Saunders says people spread a flu virus without even knowing it.

“We can unknowingly infect others starting the day before we actually develop flu symptoms and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick,” Dr. Saunders says. “That’s why getting vaccinated, covering our mouths during a cough or sneeze, practicing good-hand washing habits, and staying home when we’re sick are so important to practice during flu season.”

Dr. Saunders reminds us that getting re-vaccinated each season is necessary because flu strains are constantly changing – the immunity we had against a particular strain of flu last year won’t recognize a virus that’s now changed into something different now. Not only that, she adds, our immunity from the vaccination declines over time.

The Bottom Line

“Don’t let the fear of side effects or thinking you’ll get sick from the vaccine keep you from getting vaccinated,” Dr. Saunders says. “The flu vaccine DOES NOT – CANNOT — GIVE YOU THE FLU. Although the vaccine isn’t a 100 percent guarantee that you won’t get the flu, it’s still the safest and best way to protect yourself and others against influenza.”

Dr. Saunders says everyone 6 months and older should get a vaccine. Vaccination is particularly important for people who are at high risk of serious complications from influenza. During the 2018-2019 flu season most of the people (younger than 64) who were admitted into intensive care units for flu-related symptoms were unvaccinated. So, get vaccinated for your health and the health of your community!

So you’ve got the flu? Where to go for care?

When you need to have your flu symptoms checked out immediately, urgent care locations typically have shorter wait times than emergency departments.

The clinics are specifically designed to treat flu symptoms quicker and easier than emergency rooms, which handle life-threatening medical issues.

As more seasonal residents return and ER wait times increase, urgent care clinics offer an effective, convenient option for the diagnosis and treatment of flu-related symptoms.

Go to a convenient care location when:

  • You have a non-life-threatening emergency.
  • You're unable to get an appointment with your primary care doctor.
  • You’re not established with a primary care physician.

Go to an ER if:

  • You’re having severe warning signs of flu, such as chest pain, confusion and respiratory distress or difficulty breathing.
  • You or a loved one is in a high-risk group. This group includes: infants, the elderly, women who are pregnant and individuals with medical conditions that affect their ability to fight infections.

Lee Health Convenient Care

Lee Health Convenient Care clinics provides quality care for adults and children in a cost-effective, comfortable environment. No appointment or referral is necessary, and most insurance is accepted. Find out more about services and locations at our updated Urgent Care page.

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