By Dr. Ryan Sommers
There are five seasons in Nova Scotia – spring, summer, fall, winter and flu.
It comes every year around this time, from late fall to end of winter, and in the same way we prepare for the other seasons, there are things you can do to limit the impact flu season will have on you and your family.
The best way to protect yourself against the flu is to get a flu shot. Also known as the influenza vaccine, it is safe, easy and effective. Thousands of Canadians get the flu each year. For many, it’s just a nuisance but each year more than 12,000 Canadians are hospitalized and approximately 3500 die as a result of the flu virus and its complications.
If you haven’t gotten your flu shot yet this year or are on the fence, here are some reasons why you should roll up your sleeve. The following are three reasons why you should get a flu shot this year.
It protects you
The flu shot is one of the most effective ways to prevent a person from getting sick with flu. If a typical unvaccinated person catches the flu, they will usually develop a high fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, muscle aches and weakness. This means being sick for as long as five to seven days. That could be a lot of missed time at work and school – plus, who wants to be sick when you can avoid it? Plus the holidays are just around the corner!
For those living with chronic conditions such as heart disease, chronic bronchitis and asthma, there is a higher risk of developing complications from the flu. With increased visits to the emergency department, secondary infections like pneumonia, admission to hospital and the triggering of heart attacks and bronchitis flares
It protects your family and friends
The flu virus can easily spread to those around you, even before you develop signs or symptoms. The flu shot not only shields you but also those around you. This is really important if you who live with or care for people living with chronic medical conditions and those over 65 years old and under 5 years old. These groups are at high risk of flu complications.
It protects your community
The more of us who are protected from getting the flu, the less chance there is to spread the flu to others. This is really important when we think about those who are at higher risk for complications from the flu and also the pressure that can be added to the health care system when flu rates are high. Flu season can increase the number of people seeking care, as well as add risk to those with compromised immune systems who are staying in hospital or living in long-term care homes.
So, getting your flu shot is very important. There are other things you can also do to help protect yourself this flu season, such as proper hand washing, and coughing into your sleeve. And if you do get sick, please stay home. If your symptoms don’t improve or worsen, consider calling 811 for advice from a registered nurse or see a family physician or nurse practitioner.
It’s not too late to get your flu shot. Reach out to your healthcare provider to get the shot or visit a local pharmacy.
It’s a simple step that will be good for you and the people around you.
Dr. Ryan Sommers is Public Health Physician and a Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) Medical Officer of Health.