Ask the Doctor: Weathering Cold and Flu Season

December 28, 2018
Ask the Doctor Weathering the Cold and Flu season

Getting the flu vaccine is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy at this time of year, but seasonal illness remains an unavoidable concern as winter kicks into high gear. To help you be prepared, Michael Austen, MD, and Reed Holland, DO, share important health reminders.

Q. Can I still get the flu, even if I was vaccinated?

The flu shot protects against the viruses that are predicted to be the most common in a given season, but it is not a 100 percent guarantee. There is a chance you may still get the flu. Remember, it takes about two weeks after your flu shot for antibodies to develop in your body to provide protection.

Q. How can I tell if it’s the flu or just a cold?

This can be tricky because colds and flu can have similar symptoms, but there are differences. Colds tend to come on more gradually and are more likely to cause a runny or stuffy nose, whereas the flu tends to occur more abruptly and have more severe symptoms, like feeling feverish/chills, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue.

Q. What should I do if I get the flu?

Call your doctor right away if you think you have the flu and ask about medications that may help you get better sooner. In some cases, the flu can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening complications like bronchitis and pneumonia. Older people, very young children and people with chronic medical conditions are more at risk.

Q. How else can I protect myself?

Wash your hands frequently to prevent the spread of germs, and avoid touching your eyes or mouth, as this can let germs into your system. Also, avoid close contact with people who are sick and take good care of yourself by getting plenty of rest, staying physically active, managing stress, not smoking and eating a healthy diet.

Michael Austen

Dr. Michael Austen

Dr. Austen is medical director of Manatee Urgent Care and sees patients of all ages at all three locations: 4647 Manatee Avenue West, Bradenton; 9908 S.R. 64 East, Bradenton; and 6272 Lake Osprey Drive, Sarasota. The urgent care offices are open every day. For more information, visit

Reed Holland

Dr. Reed Holland

Dr. Holland is board certified in Internal Medicine and treats adult patients at Lakewood Ranch Medical Group, located at 8340 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., Suite 210. The office is open Monday - Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. To make an appointment call 941-782-2800 or visit