This year’s flu season is off to a busy start. According to the Centers for Disease Control, every state, except Hawaii, is reporting widespread flu activity. Flu season typically peaks in February, so we have not seen the worst of it.

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus that infects the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. Your best protection against the flu is to get a flu shot, wash your hands regularly and take care of yourself by eating a balanced diet and getting plenty of rest.

Questions about the flu? Mike Oxenford, Director of Emergency Services for Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center, has the answers.

I heard this year’s flu shot is not 100 percent effective. Why should I get one?

It’s important to remember that when it comes to the flu shot, it’s not about you. The flu can be particularly dangerous to babies, the elderly and individuals with compromised immune systems. By getting the flu shot, you’re helping them stay healthy.

Of the four strains in the flu shot, one of them is only 10 percent effective; the other three are more than 70 percent effective. That’s normal, and the shot is definitely worth getting.

What can I take for the flu?

The symptoms of the flu – sore throat, fever, aches, congestion, headaches – can make you feel miserable. The best solution is lots of rest and fluids. If your fever won’t go away, you’re having trouble breathing or you can’t keep anything down, it’s best to call your primary care physician or come to one of our Emergency Departments.

What about Tamiflu, will that make me feel better?

Tamiflu reduces symptoms by an average of a day and a half, and it can have side effects. It’s only effective if you take it within 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms. Your doctor may offer it to you if you’ve tested positive for the flu, or he or she may recommend a different medication to treat your symptoms.

Will a Z-Pack work for the flu?

Because the flu is a virus, antibiotics like a Z-Pack, will not help you feel better.

Where should I go if I think I have the flu?

We suggest contacting your primary care physician to be tested for the flu. If it’s outside of normal office hours, you can visit one of our Adventist HealthCare Urgent Care centers in Rockville, Germantown or Laurel. If you’re feeling very ill, you can come to our Emergency Department on our Rockville campus or our Adventist HealthCare Germantown Emergency Center.

Is it too late to get a flu shot?

It’s never too late to get a flu shot! You can get one at one of our Urgent Care centers, your physician’s office or at a local pharmacy or grocery store.

Need your flu shot? Visit Adventist HealthCare Urgent Care. Walk-ins and online appointments available today.