Flu season will be different this year, as everyone deals with the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that influenza sickens millions of people in the United States every year. The very young, the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions are the most vulnerable. When combined with the risk of COVID-19 exposure, the CDC says it is more important than ever to get a flu shot.
Patient First offers flu shots from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day through our Fast Track Flu Shot program. With Fast Track Flu Shots, you can walk into any Patient First urgent care center without an appointment, undergo a shortened registration process, receive your vaccination, and be on your way. Fast Track Flu shots are available for those who do not wish to be seen by a physician.
Patient First offers two types of flu shots: seasonal flu shots and high-dose flu shots. Seasonal flu shots offer protection against four types of influenza viruses, and are available to patients aged 3 and older. High-dose flu shots are available to patients aged 65 and older, and offer protection against the same four strains as the seasonal shots.
There is $0 out-of-pocket costs for flu shots with most insurances. Self-pay cost for the seasonal flu shot is $35, and $65 for the high-dose flu shot.
The CDC recommends that people be vaccinated early in the fall, before flu season begins in their community, and ideally no later than the end of October. A flu shot will not protect you from COVID-19, but it will decrease the risk of having both flu and COVID-19 at the same time. A flu shot is one more way to keep you and your family healthy during this pandemic, along with social distancing, thoroughly washing your hands and wearing face masks.
The flu and COVID-19 share similar symptoms. Common symptoms include:
· Fever or feeling feverish/chills
· Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
· Fatigue (tiredness)
· Sore throat
· Runny or stuffy nose
· Muscle pain or body aches
There are also differences. The differences include:
· New loss of taste or smell has been associated with COVID-19 but not the flu.
· The flu is more likely to appear with a sudden onset of illness, high fever, headache and body aches. Flu symptoms appear 1 to 4 days after infection.
· COVID-19 symptoms may appear with a more gradual onset of illness, mild headache, body aches, and mild or no fever. COVID-19 symptoms appear 2 to 14 days after infection.
The CDC urges everyone over 6 months of age be vaccinated against the flu. This includes pregnant women. These additional tips from Patient First can help you avoid the flu:
1. Wash Your Hands - This is the single most important way to stop the spread of flu and colds. According to the CDC, about 80% of infectious diseases spread through touch alone. Scrub with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol is a good substitute if soap and water are not available.
2. Cover-Up When You Sneeze and Cough - Many of us were taught to cover our mouths and noses with our hands when sneezing and coughing. A better option is to use the crook of your elbow or a tissue when available. This way the germs will not get onto your hands and spread through contact with others.
3. Disinfect - Flu and cold germs can live on surfaces for hours. Disinfecting items like remote controls, doorknobs, tabletops, keyboards, phones, and toys can kill germs and stop them from spreading.
4. Do Not Share Your Germs - Take steps to stop the spread of flu and colds at home and work. Stay home from work when you know you are sick. The same goes for sending sick children to school. Keep them home. If you have the flu, be sure to stay home until you have been fever-free without medicine for at least 24 hours to avoid making others sick.
5. Live Healthy - Help yourself win the battle by eating healthy, getting a good night sleep, exercising, and reducing stress. These things can help strengthen your immune system and potentially make your body more capable of fighting a cold or virus.
Patient First has taken extensive steps, based on CDC guidelines, to provide a safe environment for all patients.
About Patient First
All Patient First Medical Centers are open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day of the year, including holidays. Patient First provides non-appointment urgent care for routine injuries and illnesses, as well as primary care for patients who do not have a regular physician. Each Patient First center has on-site digital x-ray, on-site laboratory, and on-site prescription drugs. Patient First currently operates medical centers in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.