Each year, thousands of Canadians ask themselves whether or not they should get vaccinated against the flu. This article will help you to make an informed decision.
With flu season just around the corner, you should stop by your local vaccination clinic to make sure you get the best protection possible against the flu. Don't hesitate to speak to your pharmacist if you have any questions about the vaccine and how to get it.
The flu: not just a cold!
Changes in season, especially the transition between autumn and winter, make us more vulnerable to viruses. The flu virus or "influenza" is highly contagious and can make some people very sick. It is one of the most common viruses and it is often confused with the common cold. Yet, they are two very different viruses.
The flu is generally a more severe infection than the common cold. Flu symptoms appear suddenly and include:
- muscular aches and pains
- general malaise, and
- severe fatigue
It can generally be said that the flu virus is less common than the cold virus, although people often think they’ve caught the flu when in fact they’ve just caught a nasty cold.
Anyone over the age of six months can receive the flu shot. However, it is particularly important to receive it if you are in one of the following groups:
- People over the age of 75
- Healthy, pregnant women in the second or third trimester
- Pregnant women affected by certain chronic illnesses, regardless of the stage of pregnancy
- People taking care of a baby under the age of six months
- People affected by certain chronic illnesses (heart or lung diseases, diabetes, kidney diseases, HIV, etc.), including children between the ages of 6 months and 17 years;
- People of all ages living in a reception centre or long-term care facility
- Children or adolescents on long-term acetylsalicylic acid therapy
- Healthcare workers, and
- People who are in frequent contact with individuals with a high risk of complications (e.g., family members, caregivers, etc.).
Under provincial programs, the flu shot is provided free of charge to people aged six months and over. Many Jean Coutu affiliated pharmacies offer a flu vaccination service by a nurse or pharmacist.
When complications arise
Many people are not aware of the severity of complications that can be caused by the flu. Consequently, they do not really see the usefulness of vaccination. Yet, the flu can cause major complications, such as serious pneumonia that may require hospitalization. In the most serious cases, death may occur. This is why certain people considered to be at risk are strongly encouraged to get a flu shot in the fall.
Vaccination is the safest method of protection against the flu and its complications. It can even save lives! That is why everyone should consider receiving it every year. The decision whether or not to get a flu shot is an important one that deserves careful thought. Your doctor or pharmacist can help you to weigh the advantages and risks of vaccination in order to make an informed choice.
There are also other measures likely to reduce the negative impact of the flu. Your pharmacist can provide information on the subject.