Flu season will soon be upon us. The Marathon Family Health Team is urging community members to prepare for this year’s flu season by getting their flu shot. Now that there is potential of having two viruses circulating on in our communities (the influenza/flu virus and the COVID-19 virus), getting the flu shot is more important than ever.
Although the flu is an illness that is mostly a nuisance, it can unfortunately be a serious illness for some, including the elderly, children, pregnant people, and people with chronic conditions (e.g. heart disease, diabetes, asthma, auto-immune disease). To help protect everyone, especially those who are at high-risk of serious illness from the flu, the Ontario Ministry of Health recommends that all individuals over the age of 6 months get a flu shot. Even individuals who are not in any high-risk categories are advised to get the flu shot since it reduces their chances of getting the flu and spreading it to others.
Symptoms of the flu, which generally last between 7 to 10 days, can include the following: fever, chills, cough, runny eyes, stuffy nose, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, weakness and tiredness, or vomiting and diarrhea.
You may have noticed that there are many similarities between the symptoms of the flu and COVID-19. So, how are you expected to know the difference between the viruses? The short answer is: you can’t. That’s one benefit of getting the flu shot this year – it can reduce your risk of developing symptoms that could be associated with COVID-19.
Getting the flu shot will also help with the following:
- As mentioned above, it will help reduce symptom confusion. The flu shot does not protect against COVID-19, but it does protect against the flu. This can result in less time in self-isolation, less time off work or school and less COVID-19 testing (which can be uncomfortable).
- It can help keep your immune system working well. Getting the flu weakens your immune system. If you happen to be exposed to COVID-19 while fighting off the flu, it can be even harder for your body to fight off these viruses.
- Each year, hospitals get very busy with cases of the flu. Remember that the flu is a serious illness for some people and it can lead to hospitalization. Fewer cases of the flu mean fewer people in the hospitals, which will reduce the burden on our health care system and give health care providers greater capacity to care for people with COVID-19 (if our communities happen to get a positive case).
- It will reduce your need to access health care facilities. Keeping people out of the hospital, Assessment Center and clinic will help reduce their risk of being exposed to someone with COVID-19.
Frequently asked questions about the flu shot
Is the flu shot safe? Yes. The flu shot will not give you the flu. It can make some people sick, but this is not likely. The vaccine contains a form of the flu virus which is not “live” and so it can’t infect you. The flu shot prompts your body to build up its defenses, making you stronger and more resistant to the virus.
Is the flu shot effective? When the vaccine is well matched to the flu strains circulating that flu season, it can prevent the flu in up to 60% of the population.
When should I get vaccinated? It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against the flu. For this reason, it’s best to get vaccinated early in the fall, before flu season begins. Getting the flu soon after receiving the flu shot is not a result of the vaccine; it simply means that you contracted the virus before or shortly after getting vaccinated.
Do flu vaccines cause any side effects? The flu vaccine, can cause some side effects, such as fatigue, headache, fever, and muscle aches and pains, that are generally mild and go away on their own within a few days. Just like other vaccines and medications, the flu vaccine can also cause other more serious side effects, but this is very unlikely. If you have any concerns about potential side effects, please speak with your health care provider.
What can I do to avoid the flu? Following the public health recommendations that were put in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19 will also help protect you from the flu (e.g. washing your hands, staying home as much as possible, avoiding touching your face, disinfecting commonly touched surfaces, etc.). However, the best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu is getting the flu shot.
What should I do if I have the flu? Stay home and get plenty of rest. In times of COVID-19, getting the flu may also result in an appointment at the Assessment Centre and getting tested for COVID-19. If symptoms get worse or you don’t begin to feel better after a few days, please contact your health care provider.
Where can I get my flu shot? Flu shots are currently available at the Marathon Family Health Team. Call 807-229-3243 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book an appointment today!
Over the last few months, you have been encouraged to do many things to help protect yourself and others. We are asking you to consider taking one more step towards preventing the spread of illness in our communities and getting your flu shot.
For more information on the flu shot, please visit the Government of Ontario’s website: https://www.ontario.ca/page/flu-facts.