You are not alone.
It’s flu season, which means it’s peak time to get sick. And if you’re not sick, chances are you know someone who is.
We’re not just talking about the flu. February is also when allergy season begins to kick in. And when snowbirds flock to Florida for winter, spreading germs -- including a string of strong viruses and upper respiratory infections.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re sick and just “can’t even” right now:
1. Always get checked out
While there are other viruses and upper respiratory infections floating around this time of year, Tampa Bay area physicians stress that residents should not wait to get checked out by a professional if the symptoms they are experiencing are severe or lasting beyond three-to-five days. The flu can be deadly, and last year, we experienced one of the worst flu seasons on record. If you have a fever, are vomiting, and feel like you’ve been hit by a bus, go see a doctor to rule out the flu. If you feel sick with a cough and headache but don’t have a fever, you may just have to let the virus run its course. Stay hydrated, take some Tylenol, and maybe take a few days off work until you’re not contagious.
2. Avoid the emergency room
While doctors and nurse practitioners can still treat the flu or other cold-like conditions in the E.R., it’s advised that patients first go to an urgent care facility or even their primary care doctor. The E.R. is just that - reserved for emergencies. When patients come in looking for answers for their lingering cough, they’re just clogging up the E.R. for others who may need more immediate attention.
3. Use your phone
Thanks to technology, people don’t even have to leave their home to see a doctor anymore. Download one of the many “telemedicine” apps on your smartphone or tablet, either from your provider, like BayCare or Tampa General Hospital, or your health insurance company, to schedule a time to see a physician “virtually.” Think: FaceTime, but with a doctor instead of your grandkid. Here, a doctor can diagnose symptoms and send a prescription for medication to the pharmacy. The pros: It’s usually cheaper than the co-pay at a doctor’s office, and you don’t even have to leave the couch.
4. Be prepared to wait
It’s not the greatest news to hear when you’re sick, but pharmacies and urgent care centers are busy right now since it’s peak season. While most pharmacies and retail stores are reporting being stocked up on cold medicine and other supplies, it’s not uncommon to have to visit more than one store to find what you need right now. If you must see a doctor, schedule an appointment in advance to avoid sitting in the waiting room for too long.
5. Hang in there
Since there are several infections and viruses floating around out there, it’s hard to tell how long it’ll be before you start feeling better. But physicians suggest riding it out for three-to-five days, if possible, especially if you’ve gotten a flu shot this year. If it’s any consolation, it feels as if the entire Tampa Bay area is sick, so we’re all in this together.