Don’t Skip the Flu Shot
Have you had a flu shot yet?
This season, medical experts say that it is doubly important to be vaccinated against the influenza (flu for short).
They worry that the dual threat of a severe flu outbreak, on top of the global COVID-19 pandemic, could create what has been termed a “twindemic” and overwhelm our health care system.
In short, this is NOT the year to skip the flu shot.
Why get the flu shot
The flu shot is not only the best way to avoid illness, it can protect the health of others. This is particularly important for those who have pre-existing health conditions and who are at high risk for influenza-related conditions and hospitalization.
In any given year, the seasonal flu results in approximately 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths in Canada.*
The most vulnerable groups are seniors aged 75 years or older, pregnant women in their second or third trimester and anyone, of any age, who has a chronic illness, such as diabetes, heart disease or asthma.
Getting the flu can worsen chronic conditions, as well as other immune-compromising illnesses such as cancer, lung and kidney disease.
Canada’s flu numbers this season are, so far, at record lows. That’s because the steps we’ve been taking to slow the spread of COVID-19 have also helped prevent the flu from spreading. Washing our hands, wearing face masks, and physical distancing all help to contain most diseases.
In addition to reducing your risk of contracting the flu, by getting vaccinated you will be able to determine whether symptoms that arise are related to the seasonal flu or COVID-19. If you’ve had the flu shot, the onset of a fever or dry cough could signal COVID-19.
When to get the flu shot
So, when and where should you get a flu shot? Let’s start with when. The short answer to that question is as soon as possible, now that the vaccination is available. It takes about two weeks for your body to create antibodies to fight the flu once you’ve received the vaccine. Flu season is generally well underway in Canada by November (peaking in January or February), so you’ll want your antibodies going at full strength by then.
Where to get the flu shot
You have several options when it comes to places to get a flu shot. However, your family doctor, local walk-in clinic or public health clinic may have limits on the number of patients that they will see in person at one time (to prevent having too many people in the waiting room). It’s a good idea to call ahead first to confirm if they are offering vaccines this season and, if so, to schedule an appointment.
Your best bet may be your local pharmacy, where in normal years, approximately 35% of flu shots are given – a figure that is expected to rise this year.
What to do if you have the flu
If you do experience the flu, here are a few steps you can take for a speedy recovery, keeping in mind that most cases last seven to 10 days but can stretch out to two full weeks (and this depends on pre-existing health conditions).
- Stay home and get plenty of rest – and curb the spread of illness
- Drink plenty of fluids to fuel your immune system (e.g., tea, soup or just plain old water)
- Steer clear of caffeine to keep you hydrated
- Eat foods with the right vitamins and minerals (e.g., vitamin C, zinc and vitamin A that contribute to a good immune system and overall health)
Get vaccinated for others
In the event of a heavy flu season, compounding a second coronavirus wave, there’s another important reason to get vaccinated this year: keep hospital beds free for vulnerable Canadians who will need them.
If not for your health, get a flu shot for others.
What to do if you have questions
If you have questions about the flu shot, speak to a health professional. Don’t want to leave the house? You don’t have to.
Maple, a leading virtual health care provider, can help you connect within minutes to licensed Canadian doctors for consultation and treatment – day or night – using your computer, tablet or mobile phone, from the comfort and safety of your home. Maple’s Online Doctors service is available through our Connected Care digital health platform.
Learn more here.