Alas, there are still lots of people who don’t get a flu shot every year which is something I simply don’t understand in large part because the potential downside seems to be so terrifically small.
So, unless someone one day clearly shows that getting a flu vaccine can impact your health negatively in an important way – like for example, making you more likely to get some type of flu in following flu seasons (this potential problem is being vigorously studied, by the way) – the positives that we do know from getting a flu shot every year have won the day in a large way.
Why do I say that?
For a start, the flu can be a severe infection with huge potential complications such as pneumonia and death so it’s important to remind flu-shot doubters that every year the flu kills thousands of North Americans, usually the very young, the very old, and those with diminished immunity or who have certain chronic illnesses, but some seasons flu also kills the healthy and vigorous in large numbers.
And then there’s this key reason: Herd immunity, meaning that the more people who are immunized against the flu, the more protection the vulnerable have against the flu.
And finally, every year, we learn more advantages from an annual flu vaccine, such as this recent study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco which found that even though the overall flu vaccine effectiveness was only 52 % in the recent flu season, young kids who got a flu vaccine had half the rate of being hospitalized with flu-related illness compared to kids who didn’t get a flu shot.
This fall, do yourself – and the rest of us – a favour and get a flu shot.
And try to convince those around you to get one too.
If you’re like many Canadians, you or someone you know felt icky, yucky, or downright gross over the holidays. An early start to cold and flu season caught us off guard, allowing illness to spread at parties and festive gatherings.
On a positive note, the holidays are ideal for getting needed rest. But, if you become sick during the traditional danger zone from January to March, deciding what to do can be much more difficult.
The answer depends on many personal variables, of course. But here are a few things to keep in mind that might help you decide (don’t forget: a lot of sick days can be avoided if you simply get the annual flu shot).
If you have a mild sniffle or slight cough, it’s usually okay to head to work. Just be sure to let your coworkers know you aren’t feeling 100%. That way, they won’t be surprised if you refuse a handshake, avoid a social function, or choose to eat alone.
While at work, wash your hands often, disinfect them regularly, and use disinfectant wipes several times per day to clean your workstation. You don’t want to risk being known as ‘patient zero’ at the office this year. And be sure you have some tissues on hand, too. Ah-choo!
If you feel worse than somewhat under the weather, it’s a good idea to stay home for at least a day if you can. This includes if you’ve suffered from moderate symptoms persisting for more than a few days. There are also a few red flag symptoms to watch out for.
If you have any of these symptoms, you’re better off staying home if you can:
1. Fever: Running a fever of over 37.5°C (100°F) is the number one sign you should stay home from work. It’s likely you have the flu and the next 36-48 hours will be pretty tough. You can get ahead of the game by jumping into bed straight away. But see a doctor if your fever rises over 39.5°C (103°F), persists for over 24 hours, or is accompanied by severe sweating or chills.
You should also remain home from work at least one extra full day after your fever breaks. Feeling rejuvenated? This can be a great opportunity to work from home.
2. Sore Throat: Ahead of other traditional cold symptoms, a sore throat is a red flag that you should consider staying home. To start, if your job involves speaking (and most do), this will be uncomfortable and could prolong your symptoms. More importantly, a sore throat is a potential symptom of laryngitis, mononucleosis, strep throat, or tonsillitis.
3. Coloured Mucus: To be completely clear (no pun intended), if you’re coughing up considerable amounts of phlegm, no matter the colour, you should consider staying at home if you can. In addition to several other very good reasons, nobody wants to hear all that ruckus at work.
That said, keep a close eye on the colour. If your mucus is distinctly green or yellow, it could be a sign of infection. At the very least, it shows your body is fighting off something nasty.
Check out this LD Expert video of Pharmacist Gianni Del Negro on Global News with Sonia Sunger.
Note: Please consult your pharmacist before taking any cold or flu treatments.
Antiviral Mask: If you’ve never tried one of these before, you might feel slightly self-conscious wearing what appears like a surgeon’s scrubs from the neck up. But you’ll be glad if it helps you avoid catching or spreading a cold this year. These masks are especially great to wear in large crowds or shared public spaces, such as transit, stores, or airports.
LD Expert says: “If you are concerned about getting sick or you want to prevent someone else from getting sick, you can put a mask on to prevent those droplets from going into the air.”
Saline Nasal Rinse: Again, some might feel unsure about using one of these products for the first time. “The water goes where!?,” they ‘ll say. But many of those who have tried a neti pot for themselves absolutely swear by the results. It involves rinsing out your nasal cavity with what is essentially warm, salty water and it can make all the difference when you’re stuffed up.
LD Expert Says: “If you’re really congested, it’s hard to breathe and you’re not going to get a good night’s sleep. Using a saline product like a neti pot helps relieve some of that congestion and makes it easier for you to breathe and function.”
Cough, Cold, and Flu Relief: There are a wide variety of off-the-shelf treatments for cold and flu symptoms. They feature numerous active ingredients and can be taken in many different ways, including everything from pills to fruit chews. But know that none offer a true cure or a proper substitute for needed bed rest. Still, they can make you feel a bit better in the meantime.
LD Expert Says: “The old stand-bys in terms of helping with cough, nasal congestion, those sorts of symptoms. Keep in mind it’s really important that you do talk to your pharmacist about these products before you use them.”
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not too late to get your flu shot – there’s still time to benefit from the vaccine and help prevent the spread of the flu. Here is some super-important information about the flu that you need to know.
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First are two important facts: 1) Flu symptoms can appear 1–4 days after becoming infected. 2) You can infect others for 5–7 days after onset of symptoms.
The Best Prevention
The very best way to prevent colds and flu is to wash your hands often and teach your children to do the same. You should wash your hands before and after shopping trips (most supermarkets and drug stores now provide gel dispensers or wipes for this purpose), and always before eating/preparing food and after blowing your nose, or wiping your child’s. Here are a few more pointers:
Although there are no guaranteed ways to prevent catching a cold, with a strong prevention strategy, you increase your chances of staying healthy throughout the winter months.
(This article was previously published in October 2011.)
Pharmacists say being Proactive and Prepared is the key to Flu Season Survival
Taking simple, yet highly effective, steps to preventing influenza (flu) can prevent a trip to a busy hospital emergency room during the upcoming flu season. Influenza can be very serious for those who have health vulnerabilities such as senior citizens, pregnant women, or people with chronic health conditions. Influenza causes about 20,000 people to get admitted to the hospital and about 4,000 deaths in Canada each year.
London Drugs is joining health agencies across Western Canada to ensure Canadians are prepared to combat the seasonal flu, which can help free up emergency room space for emergency situations.
“Being proactive and prepared is the key to surviving the flu season,” said Gail Rowan, Pharmacy Operations Manager for London Drugs. “By getting the influenza vaccination early in the season, as well as taking some simple and healthy preventative actions, you not only protect yourself, but you protect others because you are less likely to spread the flu.”
Knowing the difference between a common cold and the flu is as important as being proactive and getting the flu shot early.