The Flu: Are You in the Know?

Simple Ways to Avoid Getting or Giving the Flu

Influenza (flu) season is quickly approaching, bringing with it the familiar chills, aches and runny nose everyone who has truly had the flu dreads.

Often, the flu gets confused with more common stomach bugs or the ‘stomach flu;’ these illnesses are not the flu, nor are they related. Gastrointestinal symptoms (gastroenteritis) like vomiting and diarrhea can be uncommon flu symptoms, but are more often the result of food poisoning or a virus like norovirus or rotavirus.

When determining if you or a family member has the flu, it is important to know what signs to look for. Common symptoms can include:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

* It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

The flu virus can be easily spread through daily interactions and symptoms can develop within a couple of days of exposure to the virus. To combat the flu, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older, emphasizing that flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits and missed work and school due to flu illness and prevent flu-related hospitalizations. Getting vaccinated not only protects you, it protects those around you who might not be able to get a vaccine due to their age or a medical condition.

The vaccine will not give you the flu; it does take about two weeks for full immunity to build up, so if you are exposed to the virus shortly before or within two weeks after you receive the vaccine, it is possible for you to get the flu. You may also contract a strain of the virus not covered by that year’s vaccine. The CDC cites that receiving the flu shot may cause soreness, redness and/or swelling from the shot, a headache, fever, nausea or muscle aches.

When you suspect you have the flu, it is important to seek medical treatment quickly. Starting an antiviral medication within 48 hours of symptoms appearing can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by one or two days and help prevent flu complications such as pneumonia. If you have the flu, it is important to stay home to rest and try to minimize contact with others to avoid spreading the virus.

Steps to avoid contracting the flu are fairly easy. The CDC recommends the following simple and common sense preventive actions:

  • Avoid exposure to sick individuals
  • Cover your mouth with your inner elbow when you cough or sneeze
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently

Utilizing these measures every day can help slow the spread of the germs and viruses that cause respiratory illnesses, like the flu.

The peak flu season tends to be late fall and early winter, when people are in closer contact indoors and at larger gatherings throughout the holidays; it is possible to contract the flu at anytime during the year. High risk groups, including young children, older adults and pregnant women, should talk with their doctor to discuss ways to minimize their risk of contracting the virus and avoiding complications from the flu.

St. Luke’s Urgent Care Centers, with eight convenient locations throughout St. Louis and St. Charles Counties, offer yearly flu vaccinations. In addition to getting your flu shot, St. Luke’s Urgent Care Centers can also treat your family’s minor illnesses or injuries, especially when your primary care physicians’ office is not available or closed. Each center is fully-equipped with lab and X-ray services, as well as staffed by physicians, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, X-ray and lab technicians. Our St. Luke’s Convenient Care is also available for your seasonal flu shots. Located inside Dierbergs Des Peres, St. Luke’s Convenient Care can treat minor illnesses and injuries such as sore throats, earaches and urinary tract infections for patients (2-years-old and up) on a walk-in basis. For more information on St. Luke’s Urgent Care Centers, St. Luke’s Convenient Care or for influenza vaccination prices, visit us online at StLukes-StL.com/Urgent-Care.