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Each year as school starts up, temperatures drop, and evenings grow darker, seasonal illnesses begin to rear their ugly heads. Sinus infections, cold and flu, stomach viruses, Covid, RSV, pink eye, and a host of other nasty viruses make their way around the community. While these types of illnesses are usually mild and can be treated at home with over-the-counter medications or by visiting a doctor for an antibiotic prescription, sometimes even run-of-the-mill illnesses lead to more serious complications if not properly addressed.

Thus, if you find yourself under the weather, it will be important to be seen by a doctor to receive an accurate diagnosis, determine the best course of treatment, learn when it will be safe for you to return to work/school, and what to do if your symptoms worsen. Thankfully, urgent care centers provide one of the most convenient ways to deal with seasonal illnesses, including testing and even preventative care. Continue reading to learn more about urgent care centers and how they can help you with the fight against seasonal illnesses!

What is Urgent Care?

Urgent care centers are medical facilities that offer walk-in appointments for minor health issues such as sinus infections, ear infections, coughs, fevers, sore throats, rashes, and much more. These centers are typically open during normal business hours, as well as during the evening/weekends so you can enjoy quick access to a physician’s office anytime an illness strikes. In addition to providing fast and easy access to physicians, urgent care centers also offer routine vaccinations, flu/Covid/RSV testing, as well as many diagnostic tests (blood draws, X-rays, ultrasounds, etc.). Urgent care is your one stop facility for (non-emergency) care when you need it most.

Preventative Care

One way in which urgent care facilities help fight against seasonal illness is by offering preventative care options like the flu vaccine. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months old and older should receive two doses of the vaccine against influenza (flu) each season. This includes children who have asthma, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, or any chronic medical condition. If you’re pregnant, your doctor may recommend another dose during pregnancy.

The most common symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, and body aches. Symptoms typically appear within 2–4 days after exposure to the virus and last about one week. Most people recover without treatment, but some develop severe illness requiring hospitalization. People with certain health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart problems, obesity, cancer, and those 65 years and older are more likely to experience serious complications from the flu.

As such, whether you wish to be vaccinated against the flu or begin to experience symptoms of the flu, urgent care can help. They can administer the vaccine, test for flu, and prescribe treatments as necessary so you can fight the flu without the inconvenience of visiting your primary care physician.

Testing & Treatment

Another way urgent care centers help fight against seasonal illnesses is through rapid testing. Many urgent care centers now offer COVID-19 testing, allowing patients to receive a positive or negative test result in a hurry. Some centers also offer testing for the flu, strep throat, RSV, and other respiratory diseases. Testing allows patients to know if they have contracted the virus before they start spreading it to others.

While there is no cure for the flu, there are treatments available to reduce its severity. Antiviral medications called Tamiflu and Relenza work best if started early in the course of infection. Regardless of what illness you have, proper testing can help reduce the spread, ensure you have the proper note to excuse you from work/school, and help you receive the right treatments and medication to get you on the road to recovery more quickly.

Urgent Care NOT Emergency Care

While urgent care centers are great for non-emergencies, they aren’t always equipped to handle emergency situations. If you find yourself having a life-threatening emergency, immediately call 911. Don’t waste precious time calling or visiting an urgent care if you are experiencing serious medical problems. Simply put, emergency rooms are designed and equipped to treat life threatening injuries and illnesses. While urgent care centers can be helpful in treating minor injuries and illnesses, their staffs are not trained to deal with emergencies.

For example, should you develop symptoms consistent with Covid, you could choose to visit an urgent care facility to be tested. However, if you have Covid symptoms and begin to have trouble breathing, it will be necessary to skip urgent care and go straight to the ER. Ultimately, urgent care is designed to alleviate some of the burden from the overworked hospital system and help patients who need care (especially after hours) to avoid spending hours in a ER waiting room or waiting to be seen until their primary care is open.

However, if you do end up needing emergency medical services, following a visit to urgent care, make sure that you tell them about any prior care you received. This will allow them to better triage you and provide the appropriate level of care based on your condition.

Urgent Care Can Prevent Further Complications

When it comes to seasonal viruses, the vast majority of them must simply run their course, but this doesn't mean you should simply wait it out if you find yourself "sick as a dog" with a stomach bug, fever, cough, cold, flu, sinus infection, or other virus. In many cases, early treatment can prevent more serious conditions from developing; yes, even if it is just a virus.

For example, if you contract a nasty stomach bug, you may assume there is nothing a doctor can do, so why bother going into urgent care? In reality, being unable to keep down anything for more than 24 hours or vomiting for more than two days, puts you in danger of dehydration. Visiting urgent care before you are dangerously dehydrated can help you get on the road to recovery faster, since urgent care can help you recover with IV fluids and antiemetics (anti-nausea) medication. In other words, you can prevent a treatable condition from becoming life threatening by choosing to visit an urgent care for seasonal illnesses.

In short, urgent care is a great resource for treating and preventing seasonal illnesses. Avoid unnecessary trips to the ER and enjoy better health when you add urgent care facilities to your comprehensive healthcare plan!

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