Prior to last March, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you the last time I had the flu. I never really made getting the flu shot a priority. I’m not considered high-risk, and none of my family members are either, so it’s not something I had thought a lot about.
But that changed at the end of last winter when I did catch the flu and I was sicker than I could ever remember. I had to miss five days of work, was not able to care for my family, could not have any close contact with my daughter for over a week and I was really scared that I was seriously ill.
When I could barely take a breath and my chest felt like an elephant was sitting on it, I knew it was time to seek medical attention. I was really worried that I had pneumonia but after a chest X-ray, that fear was diminished. Unfortunately, with the flu, there is nothing that can be done to “cure” it. Needless to say, it was one of the worst weeks of my life and I vowed to myself that I would never let that happen again.
With my daughter as my main concern I decided to do some research into influenza and the flu vaccine to prepare for the 2016 flu season and what I learned was quite interesting:
- Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is a contagious respiratory infection that can lead to hospitalization and even death
- People experience a number of symptoms, including:
- general aches and pains
- Extreme fatigue
- For some people the flu can lead to complications, such as pneumonia
- The flu is spread by coughing, sneezing, talking and from hands and surfaces contaminated with the virus
- In Canada, influenza generally occurs each year in the late fall and winter months. Anyone can get the flu. Even healthy individuals can become seriously ill with the flu
- Young children, especially those under 5, are at higher risk of serious illness, and even death, from the flu
- School-age children are most likely to spread the virus due to their close proximity to other children at school
- The flu virus can live up to 8 hours on surfaces. A sneeze can spread the virus up to 2 metres (6 feet) away
- The flu vaccine is the best protection against the flu.
FLU VACCINE 101
With the scary statistics and my past experience, I came to the conclusion that the flu shot was a must for my family; again, I wanted to do some research and I learned even more interesting and vital facts. You can visit ontario.ca/flu to dig a little deeper, but below, I have highlighted some of the important information I discovered.
- Getting the flu shot is your best defense against getting the flu; if you do get the flu after receiving the shot, it can reduce the severity of your symptoms
- You cannot get the flu from the vaccine.
- The flu virus is pretty smart and may change year to year; the formulation of the flu vaccine is reviewed each year and is updated, when necessary, to match the virus strains that the World Health Organization believes will circulate during the upcoming influenza season. That’s why it’s important to get vaccinated every year!
GETTING YOUR FLU SHOT
I absolutely love how easy the Ontario government makes it for families to get their flu shots. Simply visit https://www.ontario.ca/page/get-flu-shot/, enter your location (or enable location services) and a list of pharmacies and other locations will display to show you where you can go to get your free vaccine.
I encourage you to take a look at the Ontario Flu site to find out all the information that you need to make an informed and healthy decision for your family.
Here’s to happy and healthy flu season!
This post was developed in association with the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The opinions are my own.