What Is The Flu?
Flu is a highly contagious illness that circulates every winter, usually between October and May. The flu is caused by a group of viruses that can result in:
- fever and chills
- sore throat
- muscle aches
- fatigue or weakness
- runny or stuffy nose
- vomiting and diarrhea (less common)
Anyone can get the flu, but it is more dangerous for infants, children, seniors, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions or a weakened immune system.
How Do People Catch The Flu?
The flu virus mainly spreads by droplets made when a sick person coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets circulate in the atmosphere for other people to breathe in. The flu can also be passed on through skin contact or contact with shared surfaces. So, it is important that, along with getting the flu vaccine, you practice good hygiene to prevent catching the flu by:
- avoiding close contact with sick people and encouraging them to stay home from work
- avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- covering your coughs and sneezes
- washing your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser if soap and water are not available
- practising good health habits: get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, stay hydrated, eat nutritious foods and manage your stress.
Why Should I Get The Flu Shot?
The Ministry of Health recommends that everyone over the age of six months be vaccinated annually against the flu. There are many benefits of having the flu vaccine including:
- Preventing the spread of the flu in your workplace
- As a preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions (e.g. asthma, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc.)
- Protecting those around you, especially children, older adults and people with certain chronic health conditions.
How Does The Flu Shot Work?
There are many flu viruses and they are always changing. Each year, a new flu vaccine is made to protect against three or four viruses that are likely to cause illness in the upcoming flu season. Even when the vaccine does not exactly match these viruses, it may still provide some protection. It generally takes two weeks for protection to develop after the shot. There is always some risk of catching the flu, however, the flu shot can significantly reduce the chances.
Can The Flu Shot Cause The Flu?
No. The flu vaccine does not cause the flu. The vaccine does not contain a live virus, so it won’t give you the flu. You may experience soreness, redness and swelling at the site of the shot. A slight fever, mild headache and muscle aches can also occur after the flu vaccine. If you do experience any of these side effects, they should only last a few days. If these persist or if you develop a rash, please contact your doctor.
When Should I Have My Flu Shot?
Make plans to get vaccinated early in the fall before flu season begins. This is not always possible due to factors in the vaccine procurement process that affect the timeliness and availability of the vaccine. However, getting the flu shot later can still be beneficial.
When Should A Person Not Have The Flu Shot?
You should not get the flu shot if you:
- have a severe allergy to egg, egg products, or products that contain chicken
- had a severe allergic reaction to the flu vaccination previously
- think you already have the flu
You should talk to your doctor about whether you should have or postpone the vaccine if you:
- are pregnant
- are moderately or severely ill
How Can I Deal With Anxiety About Having Injections?
Some people have anxiety around having needle injections that may make them not want to get their flu shot. Here are a few helpful tips that can help you de-stress before your vaccination:
- Tell the nurse that you feel anxious. If they know how you are feeling, they can make the experience as easy for you as possible.
- Know that the discomfort is temporary, but there is a great benefit to you and those around you.
- Relaxing your arm muscles will make the injection less uncomfortable. Try a relaxation exercise: close your eyes and transport yourself to a place of calm and happiness, or inhale through your nose for four counts and exhale through your mouth for four counts. Find what works for you.
What If I Choose Not To Have The Flu Shot?
There is always a chance that you may get the flu. Getting a flu shot has been proven to significantly reduce that chance. To otherwise reduce your risk of illness without the flu shot, practice good hygiene and if you become ill there are over-the-counter medicines that can help ease your symptoms.
For more information about the flu shot, contact our Population Health Specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org