In 2022, feeling sick in Texas likely means one of three things: allergies, COVID-19, or the flu. Unfortunately, many of the symptoms overlap, making it hard to tell if one is simply suffering from airborne pollen or spreading a virus.
“Allergy season in Texas is pretty much every season,” said Charlotte Francis, a leading advanced practice provider in Texas Health Breeze Urgent Care. “Here, we don’t tend to take a break from airborne pollen allergies.”
For most Texans, allergies present with symptoms such as itchy or watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, scratchy throat, and postnasal drainage. Although it can be difficult to tell the difference between allergies and the many viruses that circulate, Francis said there are a couple of distinguishing factors, one of which is the appearance of systemic symptoms.
“Typically with seasonal allergies, [symptoms are] itchy eyes, scratchy nose and throat. When we think of a virus, we may see systemic symptoms [like] fever, chills and body aches,” Francis said.
With a highly trained staff of medical providers, Texas Health Breeze offers relief to patients with extreme allergies through testing and treatment options.
“Medications in the clinic can be things like, when we’re talking about extremes, some injectable antihistamines. Sometimes we may have to think about using some strong anti-inflammatories to reduce inflammation in patients whose allergies are getting out of control,” Francis said.
For the flu, systemic symptoms include body aches, muscle aches, fever, and chills. Francis said respiratory symptoms like cough, runny nose and sore throat can also be indicators of the flu if they’re symptoms of rapid onset.
“One of the things we hear most about flu symptoms is that they hit very hard, fast, all at once. A lot of times we hear people say, ‘I feel like I got hit by a Mack truck,’ Francis said. “It’s possible that they felt good one minute and then the next minute they felt horrible.”
With flu season ramping up and the number of cases on the rise, Francis said those who want to minimize their risk of getting sick this winter should visit their local Texas Health Breeze location Get vaccinated against the flu as soon as possible.
“The best treatment is prevention. [Get your] flu shots early. We are really approaching the deadline for these to be most effective during flu season,” Francis said.
Also, staying up-to-date on the latest COVID-19 vaccines and boosters is key to protecting yourself and others against new variants. Francis said COVID-19 patients continue to have myriad complaints: headaches, body aches, cough, runny nose, and loss of taste and smell.
“Vaccines and boosters for COVID are very effective, especially with some of the new sub-variants that are coming. There are a couple of them that are of particular concern, but omicron’s specific COVID vaccines have been shown to be effective against that,” Francis said.
Among COVID-19 patients, Francis said the most common symptom is generalized fatigue, with most people complaining that it’s hard to even get out of bed. Although Texas Health Breeze sees cases of COVID-19 on a regular basis, Francis said patients typically no longer have significant illness that warrants hospitalization.
“One of the interesting things that we’ve seen with COVID that’s newer than some of the older variants is an early symptom that presents with a sore throat,” Francis said. “With the original strains of COVID, that was not always the case. We are also seeing an increase in cases of strep throat, so it has been particularly important for us to differentiate ourselves through testing.”
At the onset of any symptoms, seeing an expert at Texas Health Breeze is the best way to feel better faster and minimize the chances of spreading an illness to friends and family. Because so many Texans experience allergies, some patients may think they have allergy symptoms when it is actually COVID-19 or the flu.
“It can also be very difficult with COVID, because as we have learned, symptoms can present themselves in many ways. We have COVID patients from asymptomatic to hospitalized patients,” Francis said. “For people who suffer from seasonal allergies, we hear quite often, ‘My allergies are getting out of hand.’ We will test them and lo and behold, they are positive for COVID. be able to differentiate quickly [symptoms] and making sure we don’t spread it throughout the community [is important].”
Francis said washing hands, using hand sanitizer and avoiding higher-risk situations like crowds are key prevention measures to prevent the spread of disease in the coming months. It is also important to build a strong immune system through movement and nutrition.
“With COVID and the flu, these are highly transmissible viruses that are easily spread by coughing and contact with respiratory droplets,” Francis said. “Knowing what we’re dealing with is a big part of the battle and making sure patients are properly quarantined and treated if we’re dealing with something like the flu or COVID.”
Open 365 days a year from 8 am to 8 pm, Texas Health Breeze Urgent Care offers a new kind of urgent care experience focused on convenience and high-quality patient care. Whether it’s allergies, the flu, COVID-19, or a minor injury, a Texas Health Breeze location is open nearby to help.
“We’re just trying to make sure our communities know they have a reliable place to land where they’ll be well taken care of when they walk through our doors,” Francis said.
Walk-ins are always welcome, but patients are encouraged to make an online reservation to fit their schedule. Learn more about Texas Health Breeze Urgent Care, including locations near you, pricing and insurance information, as well as the conditions they treat at brisaurgentcare.texashealth.org.
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