Welcome to the start of another FLU season! Influenza is a common respiratory illness that affects millions of Canadians each year. There can be outbreaks of influenza at any time, but, in Canada, the most common time of year is from November through April. Colder winter weather brings people indoors and into close proximity with each other, thereby providing increased opportunity for the virus to spread.
The influenza virus is spread through droplets of saliva that travel through the air – usually after someone coughs or sneezes. Influenza is passed from person to person, through close contact with an individual who is infected of by touching an object, i.e. doorknob or telephone receiver, an infected person has handled. Coughing and sneezing into your elbow when you cough or sneeze, and frequent hand washing will help reduce the transmission of the influenza virus.
The best time to receive the influenza vaccine is October to mid-November. Current vaccines licensed in Canada are safe and associated with very few side effects – a sore injection site is the most common complaint after the injection.
The influenza vaccine is now available for all individuals from 6 months to 99+ including pregnant women. Individuals with chronic illness should get their flu vaccine as soon as possible. Influenza vaccines are now available on a “walk in” basis at our family practice location.
Typical flu symptoms include:
High Fever with sudden onset, 102°F/39°C – 104°/40°C may last three to four days
General aches and pains, often severe
Extreme fatigue and weakness, may last two to three weeks
Coughing and chest discomfort, which can become severe
Runny nose and, occasionally, sneezing
Influenza can lead to pneumonia and respiratory failure. It can also worsen a pre-existing chronic condition and become life threatening
If you have sensitivity to thimerosal (preservative) you should not get the vaccine.
If you have ever had an anaphylactic reaction with swelling of the mouth or throat and difficulty breathing to the influenza vaccine you should not get the vaccine
The influenza vaccine is safe for pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy, as well as breast-feeding mothers and is highly recommended for all mothers and fathers-to-be.
The influenza vaccine cannot give you influenza as it is developed from a killed virus.
A small number of people may get influenza-like symptoms 6 to 36 hours after getting the vaccine, but these symptoms will be short lived.