Ask the Expert: Do I Need a Flu Shot?

Image of Dr. Richard Hodge, UnityPoint Clinic Urgent Care
Dr. Richard Hodge, UnityPoint Clinic Urgent Care(Dan Videtich)

Sponsored - Medical experts encourage individuals to receive a flu shot this year since many public health measures that were put into place to combat COVID-19 have been discontinued. Actions like wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and staying home are believed to have helped with the significant reduction of influenza cases last year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the U.S. saw about 700 deaths from the flu last year. Previous estimates from the CDC indicate influenza has typically resulted in between 12,000 to 61,000 deaths annually since 2010.

“Last year many people stayed home because of COVID-19,” said Richard Hodge, MD, UnityPoint Clinic - Urgent Care. “Typically, respiratory illnesses spread when people congregate together and that’s why it’s more important to receive a flu shot this fall because people are going to be out and about - interacting more with each other in the coming months.”

Testing is Important

Testing for influenza, COVID-19 and other illnesses will help healthcare providers with diagnoses but receiving vaccinations may also reduce the severity of an illness.

“With children back in school we are treating more kids with rhinovirus, RSV and COVID,” shared Dr. Hodge. “We are also seeing a fair number of relatively asymptomatic patients who are testing positive for COVID-19. The flu isn’t usually as subtle. You will usually experience a high fever, cough, congestion and body aches. These can be similar to what someone diagnosed with COVID-19 may experience but each requires different quarantine periods so testing will be important.”

Some individuals with seasonal allergies are also surprised to learn they have tested positive for COVID-19.

“I’ve seen several patients who say, ‘I think it’s my allergies, but I don’t quite feel the same as I do when I have allergy symptoms,’” said Dr. Hodge. “I’d say that’s the clue. If it feels even slightly over and above your usual allergy symptoms, please play it safe. Get tested for COVID-19 if symptoms persist after a day or two.”

Individuals should also receive a COVID-19 vaccine if they haven’t yet. In August, the CDC granted full approval to the Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for individuals age 16 and older.

“These vaccines are safe,” said Dr. Hodge. “They save lives. I urge people to please get vaccinated, and if someone is not feeling well, our healthcare providers will take care of them and help determine what is making them feel bad. We have online appointments for urgent and express care and individuals can wait in their car until we are ready to see them. Our clinics are safe and ready to provide care.”

To reserve a UnityPoint Clinic Urgent Care or Express time online, visit unitypoint.org/urgentcare. We also encourage you to schedule your flu or COVID-19 vaccine today with a UnityPoint Clinic Provider.

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