Marina Del Rey Hospital is offering free walk-in flu shots Saturday, November 8th, from 9 a.m. to noon, or as long as supplies last.

The event will take place in front of the hospital lobby, 4650 Lincoln Blvd. in the Marina del Rey area. Parking is free to those in attendance.

The sniffling nose, the dry, scratchy voice and the grimace that follows a swallow of medicine are the familiar sights and sounds of winter and many people tend to consider the flu as something a visit to the corner drug store will cure, yet the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that in the United States more than 200,000 people are hospitalized and approximately 36,000 people will die of the flu and it’s complications every year, says a hospital spokesman.

According to the CDC, yearly flu vaccination should begin in September or as soon as vaccine is available and continue throughout the influenza season, into December, January, and beyond. This is because the timing and duration ofÝinfluenza seasons vary.ÝWhileÝinfluenza outbreaksÝcanÝhappen as early as October,Ýmost of the timeÝinfluenza activity peaks inÝJanuaryÝor later, says the CDC.

People can easily contract the flu virus when someone around them who is infected is coughing and/or sneezing, and the flu virus can be contracted by merely touching the surface of a telephone, doorknob or by another object that is contaminated by someone who has the flu. The virus can then pass from hand to nose or mouth.

The virus can also pass through the air and enter the body through the nose or mouth. Highly populated areas, such as stores, offices and schools pose the greatest risk for people to contract the flu virus.

“If you get infected by the flu virus, you will typically feel symptoms for one to four days,” said Dr. Steven Krems, internal medicine specialist, of Access Medical Group at Marina Del Rey Hospital. “You can also spread the flu to others before your symptoms start and for another one to four days after your symptoms appear.

“The symptoms start very quickly and may include a headache, the chills, a dry cough, body aches, a fever, a stuffed up nose and a sore throat.”

Medical professionals say that prevention is the key to staying healthy during this year’s flu season particularly for elderly patients.

“The flu can cause serious complications for young children, those over the age of 50, and with a compromised immune system,” says Krems. “In particular, seniors should take special precautions against contracting the flu because their immune system is not as strong as it once was.”

Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five days after becoming sick, and people who have flu symptoms should stay home and rest until they are well, he says. This also prevents spreading the flu, since a common way of contracting the highly contagious virus is through contact with friends, schoolmates and co-workers.

Before heading to the emergency room, Krems suggests:

— breaking your fever by using aspirin, Tylenol or one or two 200 mg tablets of ibuprofen (children should not be given aspirin);

— drinking plenty of fluids;

— getting plenty of rest; and

— calling your doctor.

More information about the flu and upcoming flu shots, Marina Del Rey Hospital, (310) 577-5514.