It is FLU time again!
The good news is that we can really do something about it! We often overlook how we can prevent these issues from arising! I know that when I am unwell, my family falls apart to a certain extent; missing work, missing life…Not a good feeling!
What I am referring to is not the average sniffle you may get from a standard cold. I am speaking of Influenza – “The FLU”; feeling well one moment and the next you feel as though a bus has run over you. You have fever, aches and chills…Basic dread!
The Flu hits us hard every year and once you have had it, you never forget how terrible you felt. The Flu is a common and highly contagious, infectious respiratory disease that affects the nose, throat and lungs. We are ALL at risk of getting the Flu, but particularly the very young, the elderly and anyone with a compromised immune system (i.e. Cardiovascular, Diabetes, Asthma, Crohn’s Disease etc….). This is partly because complications can occur targeting the respiratory system causing havoc. Note however that even the healthiest individuals are at risk if stressed, suffer lack of sleep, eat an unhealthy diet, or lack exercise as these can bring anyone’s immune system down making them vulnerable. THIS makes up for a large percentage of the population.
Do not fret! We have the opportunity to help each other by getting vaccinated. The Flu shot is proven to be safe and effective and the availability of the vaccine is at our finger tips (Medical office, CLSC, work, hospital…). It is a quick intra muscular injection in the deltoid muscle of your upper arm. It is that simple! The vaccine is well tolerated; you may expect a local reaction (warm, tender to the touch). While some do experience mild side effects, the Flu shot does not contain any live virus so you CANNOT catch the flu from the vaccine. For those who are a little needle shy, there is a nasal spray format available as well. Unfortunately, in a recent study, Quebec had the lowest rate of vaccination (27%) and the highest incidence of disease (25%)! [i] Come on everyone! We can do better than that!
The list of problems associated with contracting the Flu is long and costs people’s lives every year. The Flu is responsible for an average of 20,000 hospitalizations and between 2,000 and 8,000 deaths per year[ii]! The season starts from late October to the end of April, and that is how long the vaccine covers you. A yearly vaccination is recommended. Ask your doctor, your nurses, or pharmacist to help guide you. We are here for you, it is what we do!
Of course proper hand washing hygiene is one of the best ways to avoid contracting any viruses. Also, keep hand sanitizers handy for those times when soap and running water are not available. I always tell patients to keep hands away from the eyes, nose and mouth as those areas are huge portals of entry for viruses to enter. Please refer to the Flu Prevention checklist for a few additional tips from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
There is so much to talk about! I am just getting started! I will keep the Flu vaccine the main one for now. But please do not hesitate to seek advice about any other vaccines you may be in need of to have a long happy healthy life!
And finally… If you do not get the FLU, you cannot give the FLU!
D. Tanguay RN