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      Cold and flu season set to descend on Lowcountry

      CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - It happens every year about this time, the leaves begin to change colors in the upstate, the temperatures take a dip and those sniffles and sneezes become more prevalent. The constant ups and downs in the temperature, combined with the change in seasons are sending many people to the doctor's office.

      "We are hearing about a lot of respiratory illness in the community," Dr. Kathryn Arden, Department of Health and Environmental Control Regional Medical Director said. "So far we've not seen any respiratory illness that has been documented to be influenza."

      That is the good news, but with temperatures set to drop and more germs being spread, flu season is set to descend on the Lowcountry.

      Readily available

      Flu shot clinics are now available at most drug stores and pharmacies, Wal-Mart, as well as select grocery stores. At many of these places, people don't even need to make an appointment.

      Bill Nettles has been getting his flu shot religiously for years, and says he welcomes the convenience.

      "It's good that these Walgreens and other drug stores offer them. Hopefully more people will be getting the shots and not getting the flu."

      Recommendations

      "Everyone six-months-old or older should get their flu shot unless they have a severe egg allergy," Dr. Arden said.

      According to the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) records, not getting an immunization can put your risk for catching the flu up to 40 percent. Last year, the agency reportedly gave out 5,640 vaccinations. This year's vaccine combines two strains of the virus and defense against the H1N1 "swine flu" virus.

      When's the best time?

      Dr. Arden recommends getting your shot before Thanksgiving, and before the busy travel season when out of town guests or long trips to other regions spread germs and viruses more quickly.

      "We usually peak in February here in this part in South Carolina, but that doesn't mean that it's not out here, we just haven't identified a case of it yet."

      This year, medical offices will also be administering a new injection that features a smaller needle for those that might be a bit hesitant.

      As for those other pesky respiratory illnesses like the seasonal cold, Dr. Arden says the best way to keep getting sick is to use common sense.

      "The main thing you can do for yourself is to wash your hands often," she said. "Don't touch your face, nose, mouth and more often than necessary, cover your coughs and sneezes and stay home from work or school to prevent the spreading."

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