Flu test: Is it needed?

Flu season is fast approaching. When flu symptoms strike, you may wonder if you or your loved ones should get a flu test before beginning treatment.

Barbara Masser, MD, Medical Director of Ambulatory Emergency Medicine at BIDMC, says most times, flu tests are not necessary.

The flu can usually be diagnosed based on symptoms and the clinical judgment of your provider. Plus, the results of a flu test typically won't affect treatment if you're experiencing flu-like symptoms. We will treat you just the same."

Barbara Masser, MD, Medical Director of Ambulatory Emergency Medicine at BIDMC

So then why a test? In some cases, flu tests are used to track the spread of the disease. They are also used as an extra precaution for high-risk patients.

"If you are pregnant, have a weakened immune system, or another condition that might call for special treatment, a flu test may be helpful so your doctor can ensure you receive the right treatment for your condition," Masser says.

BIDMC follows recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for flu testing. "The CDC website is an excellent resource for all flu-related information, including vaccinations, when to seek care and treatment plans," Masser says.

Don't forget: the best defense against the flu is getting vaccinated. Get your flu shot today by visiting your primary care doctor or by walking in (no appointment needed):

  • Healthcare Associates at BIDMC
  • Beth Israel Deaconess Urgent Care at Chestnut Hill
  • Beth Israel Deaconess Urgent Care at Chelsea

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