Ask the Community Pharmacy & Seniors Wellness Expert – Tania Horkoff, 4th Year Pharmacy Intern
“I don’t need a flu shot”, healthcare professionals hear this from patients all the time. Healthy adults often believe there is no need to get an annual flu shot because they “never get sick”, and if they do, it only lasts a few days. Yet, influenza is a serious and sometimes deadly illness that affects many Canadians each year, especially children and elderly people.
Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment for influenza, meaning people must suffer through the illness until their body can get rid of the virus. Most people infected will experience fever, chills, exhaustion, muscle aches, and a cough. Loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and a sore throat are also common, leaving the infected person feeling under the weather for as long as two weeks. Not fun! This is why prevention is key.
Influenza is spread by infected particles in the air and by direct contact with contaminated objects or people. Prevention can come in several ways, specifically, maintaining good personal hygiene and handwashing, taking extra precaution around individuals who are at high risk, and getting a flu shot. Prevention strategies will not only help keep you healthy, but also those around you. Hand washing with warm soap and water is an effective way to reduce the spread of influenza, especially when coming into contact with those who are already ill.
Although handwashing is important, the single best way to prevent influenza is to get a vaccination annually in the fall. Influenza is a virus that is continuously mutating (changing), meaning the virus is not the same from year to year. This is why it is necessary to get a flu shot annually. Flu vaccinations are made with the three most common strains (types) of the virus that are predicted for that particular year. This is the reason it is possible to still get sick with the flu even after you have had a flu shot, although unlikely. Fortunately, those who have had a flu shot and still get sick will have symptoms that are less severe than had they not received the vaccination at all.
It is true that some people are more likely to get the flu than others, and some people may not experience the flu as harshly, but this does not mean that people with stronger immune systems should opt out of getting the flu shot. In our busy lives, we are constantly coming into contact with a diverse range of people, many of which are individuals who may become severely sick if infected by the influenza virus. By getting the flu shot, you are protecting children, grandparents, pregnant women, and loved ones who have chronic (long-term) illnesses.
Are you trying to think of some reasons not to get the flu shot? Unless you have had a severe allergic reaction to previous flu shots, or a medical condition where your physician has instructed you not to receive the flu shot, you should get the flu vaccination. In fact, the flu shot is recommend for people who have heart conditions, breathing illnesses (asthma, COPD), Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes, immune disorders, and other chronic illnesses. This is because these people are more likely to have complications and/or a more serious response to the infection, which could result in hospitalization.
Are you scared of needles? A nasal spray vaccination is now available to those individuals who have needle phobias. Available on request, it is a safe and effective way to protect yourself from the influenza virus.
Lastly, the influenza vaccination does not cause the flu, or any other illness. Vaccinations are a hot topic in the news, and many celebrities and public figures are claiming that they cause intellectual disabilities in infants and children. There is no evidence of the flu shot causing any serious disease or condition, and it is recommended that people of all ages get the vaccine.
Cheetham’s Pharmacy is offering flu shots this fall. Call us at (306) 653-5111 to book an appointment or to bring up any questions or concerns you may have.