The Flu Shot is Your Best Defense!
It’s that time of year again: sandals are being put away; jackets are out; leaves are falling; temperatures are dropping; and before we know it, flu season will be upon us! Your best defence against the flu is to get the flu shot.
Influenza, or “the flu”, is a highly contagious respiratory virus. The flu may not always be thought of as a serious illness – the symptoms of headaches, stuffy nose, sore throat, cough and muscle pain can make people confuse it with a heavy cold. Although they have some similar symptoms, the flu is much worse than a cold. With the flu you are likely to run a high fever for several days and have body aches, chills, fatigue, loss of appetite, weakness and some people may have diarrhea or vomiting, though this is more common in children than adults. There is also risk of serious complications and even death from the flu.
The seasonal flu results in 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths in Canada every year. That is why the flu shot is so important, especially to protect young children, older people, pregnant women, or people who have vulnerable immune systems. The flu shot can save lives by: protecting you, if you are exposed to the virus; preventing you from getting very sick; and protecting people close to you by being less likely to pass the flu on.
There are many benefits of getting the flu shot, including:
- Prevent you from getting sick with the flu
- Reduce the risk of being hospitalized with the flu for all ages
- Help those with chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and chronic lung disease to avoid serious medical events
- Reduce the days of school your child(ren) will miss and sick days you have to take from work
- Help protect women during pregnancy and can also protect a baby from the flu for several months after birth, when he or she is not old enough to be vaccinated
- Save lives; it reduces the risk of dying from influenza
- Have less severe symptoms if you get the flu shot and still end up getting sick
- Protect people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with chronic health conditions
The flu shot is recommended for everyone who is 6 months old and older. It is safe for kids and if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. The flu shot helps strengthen your body's natural immune response against the flu. It stimulates your immune system to build antibodies against the virus, making it stronger and ready to fight off the flu. The flu shot cannot give you the flu but helps your body prepare for when it encounters the live virus.
Remember that the flu shot is different each year because the virus changes frequently – so you need to get one every fall. The flu shot is free and available from your doctor or nurse practitioner, and at participating pharmacies and local public health units across the province. For a full listing of Thunder Bay and Area flu shot clinics and more information on the flu shot please visit www.ThunderBayFlu.ca .
Flu season typically runs from late fall to early spring. Be sure to get your flu shot as soon as possible; it takes two weeks to take effect. Anyone can catch the flu. Protect yourself and others by getting your flu shot today.
Naomi Giuliano is a Health Promoter at the NorWest Community Health Centres.
Feel Better, Live Longer, Be Happier