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Flu Season Heating Up; Do You Have Your Flu Shot?

Here's what you need to know about flu symptoms and flu shots.

With more flu cases popping up, it's time to get serious about your flu shot if you haven't gotten it yet. 

Who needs to get a flu shot? Dr. Roy Seitz, director of the emergency department at St. John Medical Center, offered this list.

  • Children.
  • The elderly.
  • People with compromised immune systems, such as those in treatment for cancer or on steroids for a health problem. Dr. Seitz recommended that people with compromised immune systems, especially cancer patients, talk with their doctor before getting a flu shot.
  • People with chronic health problems, especially those related to the heart and lungs, as well as diabetics.
  • Caregivers for the elderly or people with compromised immune systems and/or chronic health problems.

Click here for more information on flu shots from the Centers for Disease Control.

Local flu shots

The Allegheny County health department  offers flu shots at its walk-in clinic at 3441 Forbes Avenue in Oakland.

No Appointment necessary:
• Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 9:00a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
• Wednesdays, 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The Health Department’s walk-in clinic provides flu shots as a covered benefit to people with Medicare Part B who are not in an HMO and may get vaccine from any Medicare-approved provider. 

The charge is $25 for others, including Medicare Part B subscribers in an HMO who are restricted to getting flu shots as a covered benefit only from their primary care provider.

An Ounce of Prevention

Many of the ways to prevent the spread of the flu are pretty common-sense, Dr. Seitz said. Here are some of his suggestions.

  • Wash your hands regularly.
  • Sneeze into your arm, not your hands.
  • If you are at a higher risk for the flu, avoid crowds or constricted areas like buses and waiting areas for restaurants.
  • Don't be a martyr. If you get the flu, don't go to work or school.

Flu? Here's What to Do

There's a difference between a common virus or cold and the flu, Dr. Seitz said. With a virus or cold, you'll have a runny nose, maybe a little sore throat, maybe a low-grade fever.

"You feel crummy, but you can function," Dr. Seitz said.

The flu is like all that in a knockout punch.

"It's much more intense," he said. "You're pretty much bedridden."

Symptoms include severe body aches, sometimes accompanied by bad headaches, and a high fever.

If your fever is over 101 degrees, Dr. Seitz said, get to the doctor.

Quick medical treatment can alleviate the flu's misery. If you get to the doctor within 48 hours of your first symptoms, Dr. Seitz said, prescription medication commonly called Tamiflu can help shorten the length of flu symptoms.

"It's not a cure," he said. "It helps you get over the flu easier and faster."

Parents should pay close attention to children, he said. Young children may not be able to articulate their symptoms. They might just say, "I don't feel good," or, "I hurt." In addition to fever, whimpering and lethargy to the point of not wanting to get out of bed are signs to call the doctor.

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