Influenza and you: Why prevention is so important
It’s here! The infamous Cold and Flu Season is upon us. (Yes, we can hear the groaning already.) This is not anyone’s favourite time of year, however, if we educate ourselves and take preventative measures, it can be a bit more manageable.
The 2017/18 Alberta Influenza Immunization Program will be starting on Monday, October 23, 2017. The flu shot is free to all Alberta residents with a valid Alberta Health Care Number. Appointments for flu vaccinations can now be booked by calling the pharmacy at 403.291.0076.
Before we get too caught up on cold and flu season, lets go over what influenza is and how it differs from the common cold. It is easy to think of the common cold and the flu as the same thing. Indeed, both affect the nose and throat and carry similar symptoms, including fever, runny or stuffy nose, and a sore throat. Where these two differ is the severity of the symptoms. Although a cold is no walk in the park, the flu is downright miserable. Flu fevers are typically higher (30 to 40 degrees) and last usually 3-4 days, which is unheard of for someone suffering from the common cold. You can expect to be rid of a common cold in around a week, but the flu can last around three!
So why is there so much of a fuss about the flu? Unlike the common cold, the flu in some cases can lead to serious complications. Those with existing medical conditions are more prone to serious complications. Asthma, bronchitis, heart problems, ear infections and extreme exhaustion are some of these complications. The flu in Canada has resulted in over 12,000 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths last year alone and most of these cases were for people over the age of 65.
How do we treat these symptoms and what preventative measures can we take to keep us and our families healthy over the next few months of “cold and flu season”? Of course the number one and best preventative measure is to get your annual flu shot. The vaccine doesn’t just help you, but those around you as well! Some groups such as infants, seniors, and those with weakened immune systems are much more vulnerable to get the flu. And while everyone is encouraged to receive their immunization, infants under the age of 6 months are not able to get their shots.
Other preventative measures include washing your hands and keeping them clean and away from your face, as influenza can live up to 48 hours on surfaces. If you do get sick, you can prevent the spread of the virus by staying at home and getting plenty of rest! No one wants to be around someone who is sick, and we’re sure you don’t want to be working if you are feeling miserable! If your symptoms continue to get worse, make sure you see your doctor to do a full assessment of you.
Being careful to not get the flu in the first place helps protect us, and those around us. Washing our hands regularly and disinfecting surfaces during flu season can make a difference. If you get sick, one of our pharmacists can recommend a treatment plan to get you feeling better in no time! The strongest defence is getting vaccinated against the flu every year. Book your appointment today!