Dismiss Modal

October marks the start of influenza, or flu, season, which lasts until the spring.

At Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH), we are beginning to see flu cases from across the Big Bend. We are here to help you prepare with this guide that contains information on protecting yourself and your family, knowing when and where to seek medical attention and how to treat flu symptoms at home.

Flu cases usually spike in December or January, but the 2022 flu season saw spikes beginning in late October through November. Researchers typically look to the Southern Hemisphere to predict how the United States’ flu season will behave. This year saw another early start to the season for the Aussies, which could be an indicator of a difficult flu season ahead for America.

Flu symptoms can range from mild to severe and can be dangerous to people with compromised immune systems, such as babies and those living with chronic health conditions. For most people, though, flu can be treated at home or with the help of your primary care doctor or one of our urgent care physicians.

“During flu season, we see an influx of patients coming to our emergency centers. Not all these cases need to be seen at an emergency center, though. It’s important to know where to seek treatment,” said Maureen LeSerra, MSN, RN, Director of Emergency Services at TMH. “The best way to ensure you stay out of the ER, however, is to get vaccinated. Getting your entire family vaccinated against the flu will protect you from severe symptoms and complications.”

Knowing where to seek the appropriate level of care will help you more conveniently access the care you need and keep emergency rooms clear for our community’s sickest patients.

“If you think you have the flu, and your symptoms are manageable, treatment at home is the best route to keep the rest of our community safe,” said John Streacker, MD, Medical Director of Tallahassee Memorial Urgent Care Centers. “For those who are struggling with their symptoms, but are not experiencing any life-threatening conditions, come see us at one of our Urgent Care Centers. We’re here to help you feel better and move you toward recovery as quickly as possible.”

Protecting Your Family from the Flu

CDC graphicWhile a healthy lifestyle is recommended to enhance your immune system, your best protection against the flu is to get the annual vaccine. Experts recommend getting your vaccine in September or October since that is the start of the season. The COVID-19 booster is also now available, making it the perfect time to schedule a vaccine appointment with your doctor.

“Getting the flu vaccine will reduce your risk of contracting the flu, or at least the severity of your symptoms if you do get the flu,” said Brittany Schafer, MD, Family Medicine Physician at TMH Physician Partners – Primary Care in Bradfordville. “But it also helps to prevent the spread of the virus throughout our community, which is especially important for seniors, infants and those with compromised immune systems. A simple shot today can help to keep our community safe and minimize the burden of flu-related hospitalizations.”

Flu vaccines are formulated each year to protect against the most common strains of flu. If you’ve ever had the vaccine and still gotten the flu, don’t be discouraged. The vaccine is considered effective in protecting you from hospitalization and severe symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched a campaign on the benefits of the annual flu vaccine called Wild to Mild, illustrating how a flu vaccine can lessen the severity of symptoms.

The vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older, but you should talk to your doctor about any concerns or special conditions. Schedule an appointment with your primary care, workplace (if offered) or search for a flu vaccine provider to get your shot today.

Flu symptoms

Flu symptoms can be similar to other illnesses, such as the common cold and COVID-19. Typical symptoms include:

  • A fever that lasts several days
  • Aches and chills that can feel severe
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Chest discomfort and cough
  • Headache
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (more commonly in children)

Symptoms often come on quickly, whereas the common cold may appear more gradually.

Who is at higher risk of complications from the flu?

While the flu vaccine is recommended for the general public, people at higher risk for complications should make it a priority to get vaccinated.

The CDC has a list of health and age factors that increase a person’s risk of complications from the flu, including:

  • Adults 65 years and older
  • Children younger than 2 years old
  • People with chronic health conditions, like asthma, blood disorders, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disorders and lung disease
  • People with neurologic and neurodevelopment conditions
  • People with a weakened immune system, such as people with HIV or AIDS and cancer patients and survivors
  • People who have had a stroke and heart disease
  • Women who are pregnant

When is the flu considered an emergency?

Every year at TMH, we see an increase in patients at our emergency centers with flu-like systems. In some cases, seeking immediate medical attention at an emergency center is necessary. However, for most patients, urgent care, primary care or treatment at home may the best option.

See below to know where to go based on your symptoms:

Emergency Center

Patients should go to the emergency room if they are severely ill or experiencing emergency symptoms.

Emergency flu symptoms in adults:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Chest or abdominal pain that doesn’t go away
  • Fever or cough that improves but then returns or worsens
  • Dizziness, confusion or inability to wake/arouse
  • Seizures
  • Not urinating
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions

Emergency flu symptoms in children:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Blue lips or face
  • Dehydration (no urine for 8 hours, no tears when crying)
  • Not alert or inability to arouse
  • Seizures
  • Ribs pulling in with each breath
  • Chest pain
  • Fever over 104°F
  • Any fever in a child under 12 weeks of age

Not sure if your symptoms warrant an emergency center visit? Call your doctor or local urgent care center to ask for guidance.

Urgent Care

Urgent care should be used when you cannot see your primary care doctor and need medical treatment the same day. Urgent care can perform a test to confirm a flu diagnosis and, if care is sought early enough, prescribe antiviral medications to ease symptoms.

Home Care

Most flu cases can be treated at home with rest, fluids and over-the-counter medications. If you have an underlying chronic disease, are over the age of 65 or if you are experiencing worsening symptoms, check in with your primary care provider to see if you need an antiviral drug. He or she can determine whether to prescribe antiviral therapy, which has the greatest benefit when taken within 24 to 30 hours of symptom onset. Taking antiviral drugs early can help prevent serious flu complications.

Your Care with TMH

While most flu symptoms can be treated at home, TMH is here for you whenever you need us. We will soon have three urgent care centers in Tallahassee to serve you and your family – one near our Main Hospital on Medical Drive, one in Southwood and another opening in November on W. Tennessee Street.

Patients can easily check in online at any of our urgent care centers to reduce their wait.

TMH also has two emergency centers for emergency situations –Bixler Trauma & Emergency Center at our Main Hospital and Emergency Center - Northeast.

Remember, the best way to protect yourself and your family is to get your vaccine early. Schedule your appointment today!

Content Apps ID
External ID
Integration Source
Integration Source URL

Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare

Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare is a private, not-for-profit community healthcare system committed to transforming care, advancing health, and improving lives with an ultimate vision of leading the community to be the healthiest in the nation.