By: Dr. Joseph Chow, President, TEAMHealth Ambulatory Care
Believe it or not, it’s time to start thinking about flu season. Many health-care providers begin offering the flu shot as early as August. It may seem like flu season just ended, and that’s because last year’s flu season peaked late – in March vs. the typical December/January peak. In 2018, we even saw flu cases as late as early May.
Why see a doctor if you think you have the flu?
Some of us are guilty of diagnosing ourselves after a quick Google search, but it’s important to know that flu-like symptoms you may experience can represent illnesses other than the flu. Pneumonia, for instance, presents much like the flu, with fever, achiness and coughing. When you self-diagnose your illness, you’re missing the important opportunity for a clinician to physically evaluate your symptoms and determine the cause. If you are in fact diagnosed with the flu, a clinician can then treat the flu, alleviate your symptoms and work to prevent any complications.
What is the best way to protect myself and my loved ones from the flu?
Fight – As always, the flu shot is your best preventative protection from contracting the flu.
CLinician – High-risk populations will benefit most from flu medications, such as Tamiflu, which may help to lessen the length and severity of symptoms. This includes the elderly, people with chronic medical problems and young children. The “average” healthy person may not need to take Tamiflu, as symptoms will eventually resolve on their own and taking Tamiflu could cause unwanted side effects.
Urgency – If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, it’s important to see a clinician as quickly as possible for treatment, as medications are most effective when taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.
As flu season approaches, please remember the importance of being examined by a clinician to determine whether you have the flu, or if your symptoms are the result of a different illness like pneumonia or strep throat, or complications such as dehydration or asthma attacks.