How to Stay Protected from the Flu

It’s almost flu season in St. Louis, and with a record number of 80,000 Americans dying from the influenza virus last year, it’s important to get your flu shot, recognize the signs and symptoms of the flu, and know what to do if you or a family member is infected.  Flu season is generally during the winter months, but can begin in late fall and stretch into early spring, when the temperatures are still colder.

Signs and Symptoms

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of the influenza virus is important so that the correct treatment can occur, especially in high risk people like small children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems, to name a few.  Some common signs and symptoms for the flu are an elevated fever (although not every person affected will have a fever), runny nose, muscle aches, sore throat, headache, cough, chills, and occasionally diarrhea and vomiting.  The person affected can also feel fatigued and dehydrated.  People affected by the flu are most contagious after the first 3 to 4 days after they contract the virus, although some people can affect others the entire duration of their illness.

Prevention

Influenza, also known as the flu, is a common viral infection that spreads easily and quickly.  Many places, including SSM Health, offer free vaccines that can help prevent the flu.  According to the CDC, an annual flu shot is the best way to reduce your chance of being affected by the flu or spreading it to other people.  This year, SSM Health is offering six free flu clinics across the St. Louis Region on Saturday, October 13th from 8am – 12pm for people ages 9 and above.  SSM Health Cardinal Glennon will have one, however, that will vaccinate kids as young as 6 months old and above.  The locations will be listed below.

Aside from an annual flu vaccine, the CDC recommends everyday preventative actions to prevent catching the flu virus.  This includes washing your hands, avoiding those who are sick, and covering your coughs and sneezes.  Doing these actions can help slow the spread of the influenza virus. 

Treatment

Most people with the flu, especially if they are an otherwise healthy adult, will have an illness that does not require medical attention or medication.  These people should rest, increase fluid intake, and stay home avoid spreading the illness to family, coworkers, and other people.  These people should avoid going to the doctor or an emergency room unless they become very sick to reduce unnecessary hospital visits.  However, if a person cannot treat their illness at home with the methods listed above, there are antiviral medications that a physician can prescribe.  Additionally, there are some emergency signs of the flu virus that require medical attention, and these are usually more common in young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with medical conditions that put them at a higher risk.

For a list of emergency warning signs of flu sickness, visit the Center for Disease Control’s website at cdc.gov.

SSM Health Free Flu Clinics – Saturday, October 13 – 8am – 12pm

SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital

Drive-thru parking lot next to Ronald McDonald House

3450 Park Avenue

Saint Louis, MO 63104

 

SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital

Drive-thru Bellevue Ave. (one block south of Clayton Rd.)

Richmond Heights, MO 63117

 

SSM Health St. Clare Hospital – Fenton

Conference Center

1015 Bowles Avenue

Fenton, MO 63026

 

SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital – Lake St. Louis

Education Center – Koenig Building

400 Medical Plaza

Lake Saint Louis, MO 63367

 

SSM Health DePaul Hospital

May Center

12303 DePaul Drive

Saint Louis, MO 63044

 

SSM Health Outpatient Center

Lewis and Clark Conference Room

711 Veterans Memorial Parkway

Saint Charles, MO 63303

 

Written by: Emma Coleman, MBA, ATC, LAT, Outreach Liaison, SSM Health Sports Medicine

All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and/or contributors and not of their employer.
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