It’s not too late to get vaccinated against the flu.
Dr. Robert Holcombe, the medical director of urgent care at Floyd Medical Center, said Monday the flu vaccination usually takes about two weeks to become effective — but he anticipates that flu season will last into early March.
Every year, as early as November, teachers and parents alike start taking steps to prepare for the contagious bug.
Glenn White, the director of student services for Floyd County Schools, said they do everything they can to keep schools clean and sterile in hopes to prevent the flu.
“There are schools that will have a higher rate of absenteeism,” said White, about how the flu affects attendance.
He said that while absenteeism due to the flu increases this time of year, there has not been a noticeable difference this year as opposed to other years.
“It’s consistent with what we normally have,” he said. “We haven’t had a dramatic increase in absenteeism.”
Holcombe said an uptick in patients with the flu showing up to FMS’ urgent care really took off in December.
“Hand-washing is the No. 1 thing,” said Holcombe, when asked the best ways to prevent the flu. “When you cough or sneeze, do that into your sleeve and stay covered up. Cover your mouth or nose when you cough or sneeze.”
White said he encourages parents to educate their kids about the flu, along with practices to keep germs from spreading.
“We try to keep parents informed,” he said. “One of things we encourage parents to do is talk with their children and wash their backpacks.”
According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, it’s best to stay home if you or your child has come down with the flu.
“If you are sick, stay home from school or work,” the agency noted in a recent press release. “Flu sufferers should be free of a fever, without the use of a fever reducer, for at least 24 hours before returning to school or work.”
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if a student has the flu or simply a common cold. Holcombe said that the biggest difference is the onset of the symptoms.
“A cold usually has a gradual onset,” said Holcombe. “The flu comes on abruptly. It comes on suddenly. With the flu, you’ll usually have a fever, but you don’t normally have that with a cold.”
The flu also comes with chills and aches, which you usually won’t see in a cold.
Once you start experiencing flu symptoms, Holcombe said, it’s best to get into urgent care or your primary care physician early.
If people get medication within 48 hours of their first symptoms, the flu medication should work. Otherwise, he said, patients will have to let the flu run its course, which could cause complications like chest pains or shortness of breath. If that happens, Holcombe said to get medical attention immediately.