IT’S FLU SEA­SON AGAIN – LEARN HOW TO PRO­TECT YOUR­SELF

Reader's Digest (Canada) - - Health -

Fever, cough, se­vere body aches and ex­haus­tion. These are the com­mon symp­toms of the flu. Most peo­ple who get the flu re­cover within 7 to 10 days. For oth­ers, re­cov­ery may take longer or com­pli­ca­tions may oc­cur. The flu is one of the top 10 causes of death in Canada. It leads to an es­ti­mated 12,200 hos­pi­tal stays and 3,500 deaths ev­ery year. So it’s im­por­tant that we all learn how to pre­vent the flu.

PRE­VENT­ING THE FLU IS BEST

The flu shot is the best way to pre­vent the flu and can even re­duce the risk of flu-re­lated symp­toms and com­pli­ca­tions. It can also help you pro­tect oth­ers, in­clud­ing those who can’t get the flu shot (like in­fants and peo­ple with un­der­ly­ing con­di­tions), be­cause when you’re vac­ci­nated you are less likely to spread the virus to those around you. “If you’re vac­ci­nated and still get the flu, your symp­toms may be less se­vere and you’re likely to be less sick,” says Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Pub­lic Health Of­fi­cer. “Sim­i­larly, with the shot, you’re less likely to suf­fer from se­ri­ous com­pli­ca­tions from the flu.”

YOU NEED A NEW SHOT EV­ERY YEAR TO STAY PRO­TECTED

Flu viruses are con­stantly chang­ing. Through­out the year, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion and global part­ners track the types of flu viruses that change as they cir­cu­late around the world. Based on this in­for­ma­tion, a new an­nual vac­cine is pro­duced.

HEALTHY HABITS COM­PLE­MENT AN AN­NUAL FLU SHOT

The flu spreads when a per­son in­fected with the virus sneezes, coughs or talks and re­leases tiny droplets that con­tain the virus. These droplets can be breathed in by some­one else or land on a sur­face that an­other per­son touches, like the han­dle of a shop­ping cart, a door­knob or a phone. “The flu is ex­tremely con­ta­gious,” says Dr. Tam. “You can ac­tu­ally spread the flu to oth­ers one day be­fore you start show­ing symp­toms, or feel sick. And you can still spread the flu ap­prox­i­mately five days after your first symp­toms ap­pear.” In ad­di­tion to get­ting the flu shot, you can pro­tect your­self and those around you by prac­tic­ing these healthy habits:

• wash your hands of­ten

• cough and sneeze into the bend of your arm, not into your hand

• avoid touch­ing your nose, mouth or eyes with your hands

• clean and dis­in­fect ob­jects and sur­faces that a lot of peo­ple touch

• if you do get sick, stay home and avoid con­tact with oth­ers un­til your symp­toms are gone

THE FLU IS SE­RI­OUS FOR ADULTS 65 AND OVER

Adults 65+ are at higher risk of se­ri­ous flu-re­lated com­pli­ca­tions. As you age, your im­mune sys­tem changes, mak­ing it harder to fight off in­fec­tions. In ad­di­tion, other health con­di­tions can worsen with the flu, in­creas­ing the risk of flu-re­lated com­pli­ca­tions. Some com­pli­ca­tions from the flu, like pneu­mo­nia, can have se­ri­ous con­se­quences, such as breath­ing prob­lems, se­vere de­hy­dra­tion and even death. Re­cent stud­ies in­di­cate that hav­ing the flu on top of a chronic car­dio­vas­cu­lar con­di­tion can in­crease the risk of a heart at­tack. Get­ting the flu shot can be life­sav­ing.

GET YOUR FLU SHOT EARLY

It can take up to two weeks for the flu shot to pro­tect you. Get­ting the flu shot as early as pos­si­ble in the sea­son is your best de­fence. With the flu shot, you can pro­tect your­self, your fam­ily, your friends and your com­mu­nity. To learn more and to find out where to get your flu shot, talk to a health­care pro­fes­sional or visit

Canada.ca/Flu.

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