Written by SMH Ambulatory Services Manager Jen Storch
Flu season is upon us, and the best way to protect you and your family from the flu is by getting the flu shot. Here on the Suncoast, flu activity typically begins in October or November, increases in winter months and peaks in January and February. This year, health experts are encouraging everyone older than 6 months to get the inflenza vaccine early (September-October) due to concerns about COVID-19 and how it may interact with the flu.
Influenza is a virus that can cause symptoms including fever, body aches, fatigue, cough and runny nose. Everyone is at risk of contracting it, and contracting it can be especially harmful for some people such as the elderly, pregnant women and those with a weakened immune system.
If you do contract the flu, the virus can take about a week to run its course, and the best thing to do is to stay home and avoid contact with others. Antiviral medications can be prescribed to certain patients but they are best when prescribed early on in the illness — typically within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Your primary care physician or an urgent care center are the two best places to seek treatment if you do catch the flu.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, reducing the spread of respiratory illnesses, like flu, this fall and winter is more important than ever.
The federal Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone older than 6 months get vaccinated for flu in September or October to guarantee immunity during the months that the influenza virus is most likely to spread. It takes your body about two weeks to build up antibodies after receiving the flu shot, so getting vaccinated early is recommended. However, there still is a benefit to getting vaccinated into the winter months (December - February), if you miss out on getting it early. As long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue, even in January or later.
The flu shot is the single best way to prevent you and your loved ones from getting sick with the flu. The influenza vaccine can prevent you from getting the virus or can make the flu much less severe if you do get sick.
Types of Flu Vaccine
There are a few different types of flu vaccine. The most common types are the trivalent and quadrivalent influenza vaccines. These vaccines contain the three (trivalent) or four (quadrivalent) inactivated viruses that experts have chosen as the strains most likely to circulate during the upcoming flu season.
Flu Vaccine Myths
1. You can get the flu from the flu shots.
This is not true. The viruses in flu shots are inactivated, or dead viruses, and cannot cause the flu. Influenza vaccines can cause mild side effects like soreness at the injection site or mild fever, but you cannot get the flu from the shot. Side effects typically resolve within one to two days. In the rare event that you experience severe side effects, visit your physician or the emergency room.
2. You have to go to your doctor to get a flu shot.
While many primary care doctors offer flu shots, there are other places where you can get vaccinated. This makes it easy and convenient to get vaccinated for flu. However, children under 6 months old should visit their pediatrician for flu shots.
Sarasota Memorial’s six Urgent Care Centers are all currently stocked with influenza vaccine recommended for everyone ages 6 months and older. You do not need an appointment to get your flu shot at SMH’s Urgent Care Centers, which offer vaccinations from 8 am to 8 pm daily. The vaccine costs $35 and is covered by some insurance plans.
For more information and to find an urgent care near you, call 941-917-1234 or visit www.smh.com/urgentcare.
Timesaver Tip: Need to get a flu shot or see a doctor for cold or flu symptoms? Check in online to save time and skip the ‘hurry up and wait’ game.
As director of Ambulatory Services, Jen Storch oversees the daily operations of many of Sarasota Memorial’s ambulatory campuses, including its six urgent care centers, outpatient care centers and the Ringling College Student Health Care Center. A native of Florida, Jen received a Bachelor of Science in Management and a Master’s in Healthcare Administration from the University of Florida.