The flu virus gains ground in fall and winter. What can you do to prevent it from contaminating your home?
Fall, winter—and the flu
The return of winter often brings with it an increased risk of various types of respiratory infections. No one is immune to catching nasty germs, like the ones that cause a cold, the flu, COVID-19, tonsillitis, sinusitis, and so on. Fortunately, certain preventive measures help to reduce the risk of getting these infections, particularly the ones caused by a virus, such as the flu.
The virus responsible for the flu is called influenza. It spreads freely each year in Quebec and around the world. Flu season varies from year to year, but it generally lasts from late fall to the spring. Thus, the start of fall is the ideal time to think about the strategies intended to fight this sworn enemy of health: the flu.
The flu: widely unknown risks
It may seem innocuous; yet, the flu is associated with serious complications and to numerous deaths each year. It is important to distinguish between a mere cold and the flu. Although both are viral respiratory infections, their symptoms and complications differ in nature and severity.
The flu often includes stronger symptoms: extreme fatigue and weakness, fever and shivering, pain and muscle soreness, and general malaise. Additionally, it can lead to other complications (bronchitis, pneumonia, sinusitis, otitis, etc.), which sometimes require hospitalization. In the most serious cases, it can lead to death. This is why immunization is recommended.
The flu shot: something to "really" think about
The best way to guard against the flu virus is to get the flu shot each year. Quebec has an immunization program intended to prevent serious complications and flu-associated deaths, especially for high-risk individuals and their loved ones. The flu shot is strongly recommended and is free of charge for certain groups of individuals who are vulnerable. The flu shot should be seriously considered for all Quebecers over the age of six months, even those who travel to warm countries during winter.
It is possible to get a flu shot at the pharmacy. In fact, depending on your province, several pharmacies affiliated to Jean Coutu offer the possibility to meet with a nurse or pharmacist to have the flu shot administered on-site. Make an appointment.
The flu is easily transmitted, for instance, by breathing in contaminated droplets that have been released in the air through a cough, sneeze, drop of saliva or through direct contact with a contaminated part of the body or an object (e.g. handshake, door knob). This is why we teach children to cough and sneeze in the crook of their arm and to wash their hands often.
Handwashing is a highly effective prevention measure against the flu. In the fall, speak to family members about the importance of washing their hands regularly. The use of a hand sanitizer can also be beneficial, especially when handwashing is not possible. It is also advisable to avoid individuals known to be contaminated with the virus.
Quitting smoking—why not now?
Have you been thinking of quitting smoking for a long time, but have lacked the motivation and courage? Why not take advantage of the fall to take on the challenge? You would expand your arsenal against the flu, since smoking weakens the immune system and makes you vulnerable to respiratory infections like the flu.
If you make this wise decision, your pharmacist can help you in several ways, such as prescribing a nicotine replacement therapy, if you meet certain criteria. You will have wonderful news to share with your loved ones during the holidays if you succeed!
When we have the flu, we lack the energy to drop by the pharmacy. Why not prepare in advance? In preparation for flu season, ask your pharmacist which medications or essentials could help you if you get the flu (i.e. cough, fever or pain medication, or a thermometer). Keep them in your medicine cabinet.
Never take over-the-counter medication without first speaking to a pharmacist.
A healthy lifestyle
To preserve your health and keep your immune system at its peak, follow this advice:
- Eat well.
- Exercise regularly.
- Get sufficient sleep.
- Drink alcohol with moderation.
- Learn to better manage stress.
Speak to your pharmacist for additional information about the flu and the ways to prevent it.