For most, the flu is a misery, not an emergency

If you think that you might have the flu, don’t head to the emergency room at the first sign of fever.

Emergency departments were created to handle emergencies – heart attacks, strokes, severe trauma, and other life-threatening emergencies. No matter how awful it feels, the flu typically doesn’t fall into this category – unless you are in a high-risk category for complications. This includes children younger than 2, adults over 65, women who are pregnant or anyone with certain chronic health conditions.

If you are not in a high-risk category and feel the flu coming on, seeking treatment at an urgent care facility will not only help save you time and money, but it also keeps emergency rooms clear for those whose lives depend upon immediate treatment. Urgent cares also provide expert care for conditions such as colds, sore throats, ear infections, sprains, strains and more, often at lower costs and shorter wait times.

Plus, urgent cares are easier to access. Many urgent care locations are open seven days a week including evenings and weekends, and most are found in neighborhoods or near shopping centers closer to where most people live and work.

Antiviral medications can make the flu less severe for patients when appropriate, if taken within a few days of the first flu symptoms appearing. Your primary care or urgent care provider can best assess your health and prescribe the right medications when appropriate.

Of course, an even better solution to the epidemic is to avoid getting the flu altogether. Here, again, urgent cares offer an answer, as they are an excellent place to receive the flu vaccine.

Many people choose not to get the flu shot because they are not worried about getting the flu. That is akin to saying I won’t wear my seat belt while getting into the car because I’m not expecting to get into a car accident. The flu vaccine can absolutely save you from getting sick, missing work and possibly even losing your life. No one can predict the future so while the flu vaccine may not be perfect, it’s the best way we have to prevent getting the flu.

While the CDC recommends that people get their flu shot by the end of October, vaccines can still be beneficial well into the season. It is never too late to vaccinate. Even if you get the flu, it can reduce the severity of symptoms considerably. So, if you haven’t received your vaccine yet, roll up your sleeve and get your shot.

There are also simple things we should all be doing every day for ourselves and our families’ health: Wash our hands frequently, cover our coughs, and if we find ourselves sick, stay home.

And if you are experiencing flu symptoms and need medical care, don’t despair. If you’re otherwise healthy, head to an urgent care.

You’ll feel better, and you’ll keep the county’s emergency care system healthier too.

Philip Robinson is medical director of infection prevention, Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, Newport Beach, CA.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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