Every year, million of Canadians catch the flu, usually in the late fall to early spring. Some people are only mildly affected, while others get very sick. Most people recover from the flu in a week or 10 days, but other may develop serious complications, such as pneumonia, that can send them to the hospital. The best way to protect yourself is by getting a flu shot every year.
Here are 4 common misconceptions that people have about getting the flu shot:
It is physically impossible to get a cold or flu from the flu shot. A couple of things to keep in mind:
- The virus in the flu vaccine has been killed, meaning you cannot get the flu from the flu shot. The flu vaccine is like a picture of the flu for your immune system to see and “rehearse” for. This way, if you ever get exposed to the flu virus, your body already knows what it looks like and what to do.
- The flu shot does not become effective until 2 weeks after you get it. Your body needs time to build antibodies to the flu.
- Appearance of cold and flu symptoms after getting the flu shot are not a result of the flu shot. Flu shots are generally given during clod/flu season. It’s very possible that someone has an underlying cold or flu before they get their flu shot, but their symptoms haven’t appeared yet. Then after they get their flu shot, symptoms from their underlying illness begin to appear.
- The flu shot cannot protect you from getting a cold. You are still vulnerable to the common cold after getting the flu shot, so it’s always a good idea to practice and hygiene and other preventative measures to keep yourself healthy.
There is always a chance of getting the flu even if you didn’t get it last year. Keep in mind that the flu shot isn’t just for you – it’s meant to protect the people around you as well. Vulnerable populations, including children and the elderly, are most susceptible to hospitalization as a result of the flu. Having the flu shot is good for you too! If you’ve had the flu shot and you get exposed to the flu virus, you won’t be nearly as sick as you would be if you didn’t have the flu shot. It’s also good to get the flu shot each year, as there are different flu viruses year to year.
The purpose of the flu shot is to expose your immune system to different strains of the flu so it knows what the flu looks like and can build antibodies to it. If you get the flu, your body will still create antibodies to the flu whether you had the flu shot or not. The only difference is that the flu shot uses a harmless, inactive virus to trigger the body’s natural immune response to provide protection against the flu, without the risk of getting the flu.
Experts develop the flu shot through months of research and with an educated opinion. Yes, the flu shot only covrs you against certain strains. However, the strains are chosen based on research and data – it’s not just a guess. Even when the virus in the flu shot is not closely matched to the seasonal flu virus, the vaccine can still protect many people and prevent flu-related complications. This protection is possible because the antibodies made in response to the flu shot can provide some protection against different but related flu viruses. Plus, it’s better to be covered against some of the possible strains than none at all.
Keeping your records up-to-date is an important part of your care. If you have already received a flu shot and it wasn’t at your physician’s office please fill out the form below. If you would prefer to call us, please phone 1-519-273-7017.
Nasal Flu Spray – a new way to vaccinate your kids
As parents, we often dread having to take the kids for their annual flu shots. The seemingly traumatic event has been made much easier this year with the introduction of the Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine. Children and youth between the ages of 2 to 17 now have the option to forgo the needle in favour of a nasal spray treatment.
In addition to your flu vaccination, there are several other ways to help prevent getting sick and help keep your kids happy and healthy.
- Wash your hands and frequently remind your kids to do the same
- Cough and sneeze into the bend of your arm and encourage the little ones to do the same
- Avoid touching your nose, mouth or eyes with your hands
- Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that a lot of people touch (examples: doorknobs, phones, TV remotes)
- Eat healthy foods and do physical exercise to keep your immune system strong
- Get plenty of rest
Most importantly, if you or your kids get sick, stay home until your symptoms are gone to avoid spreading the flu.
Contact the Stratford Family Health Team and your family practitioner about more information for the Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine.
For more information about the Flu (Influenza), click here.
Last week we sat down with local mom Sarah Merkel and her 2 month old son, Ryker, to have a discussion about what it is like to be a breastfeeding mom in Perth County. Sarah has a Master’s Degree in Public Health from the University of Waterloo, where her final project delved into the public perception of breastfeeding as well as determining innovative ways to normalize breastfeeding in our society. Needless to say, breastfeeding is a topic that has been on Sarah’s mind often but, it isn’t until recently that she got to experience what it is actually like. When not on maternity leave, Sarah works for the Perth District Health Unit as a Health Promoter.
Sarah’s interview is part of the SFHT’s summer initiative to promote Breastfeeding Awareness Week (Aug.1st -7th).
Question: Why did you decide to feed your baby breast milk?
Answer: My main reason for breastfeeding was the health benefits for [Ryker]. Breastfeeding provides exactly what he needs as that is what [my] body is designed for. If Ryker requires specific antibodies to fight off illness, my body is able to produce the nutrients he needs in that moment, which is very cool. There is also a closeness from the skin-to-skin contact that breastfeeding gives mom and baby. Convenience was also a factor, as we can breastfeed anywhere, anytime. Breastfeeding is also less expensive, which is an added bonus.
Q: Do you feel like there is a stigma around breastfeeding?
A: I have never felt as though there was a stigma around breastfeeding in Stratford.
Q: Have you set breastfeeding goals? How did you decide to set them?
A: My breastfeeding goal is to exclusively breastfeed for 6 months, as well as to pump every day around my schedule. I have been following Ryker’s cues for needing to nurse rather than a set feeding schedule […] I knew pumping was going to be an important part for me to reach my goal of exclusively breastfeeding but still living my life. I had set my goal on my own, but that was mostly due to having a lot of background knowledge about the World Health Organziation’s recommendations for new mothers. As important as setting breastfeeding goals are, I’ve already learned that you must be okay with whatever happens, and that you can’t feel too guilty if everything doesn’t go as planned. There are already too many opportunities for “mom guilt” as it is. Women need to do what is right for them and what works with their lives.
Q: Did you use any community resources?
A: Community resources [see list below] have been really helpful for a number of reasons. Meeting with other moms is great because you can come together to troubleshoot any issues you’ve come up against, as well as learn new tips for unforeseen challenges. Another vital role of these groups is that they help remind you that others are struggling with the same challenges you are and that you aren’t alone. With so many things about your life and your body changing, sometimes all you need is a group of women to remind you that you are normal. Both you and your baby are learning this whole breastfeeding thing for the first time, and support groups are so important to keep up the persistence to keep trying.
Q: Have you thought about your back to work plans?
A: Working with the Health Unit certainly gives me an advantage for heading back into the working world. As I am planning on exclusively breastfeeding for 6 months and to be back at work after 9, I don’t see balancing breastfeeding and working as an issue. However, I am absolutely able to appreciate the challenges of mothers who are returning sooner or work in shifts.
Q: Is there anything you would do differently for the next feeding experience?
A: There is nothing that I would do differently for future births. I am proud of myself, for setting my goal of not introducing formula and sticking to it. I knew it wouldn’t be easy and would be a challenge—I came into this with patience and a realistic mindset that has worked out well for us. I knew that there would be plenty of challenges but I also knew that there was tons of support available if and when I needed it. This was hands down worth any of the challenges that have come our way. Ryker had difficulty latching for 4 weeks, but being persistent and patient has really paid off as he is now an incredible and speedy eater.
(disclaimer: these are resources used by Sarah throughout her pregnancy and have no affiliation with the SFHT or our care providers. For further suggestions on community resources, please contact your health care provider or set up a consultation with our SFHT lactation specialist Andrea Thompson at 519-273-7017)
Before booking your next vacation, review the latest health advisories on the Zika Virus by clicking here.
What Is The Zika Virus?
Zika virus is occurring in many regions of the world. Local transmission of Zika virus was first reported in the Americas in 2015. Currently there is ongoing local transmission in many countries of South Asia, Western Pacific Islands, and South and Central America, including the Caribbean, and Mexico.
How Does It Spread?
Zika virus infection is caused by a virus which is primarily spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. It can also be transmitted by an infected pregnant woman to her developing baby and sexually transmitted by an infected man to his partner.
What are the Symptoms?
Symptoms can include fever, headache, conjunctivitis (pink eye) and skin rash, along with joint and muscle pain. The illness is typically mild and lasts only a few days and the majority of those infected do not have symptoms.
How Do I Protect Myself?
There is no vaccine or medication that protects against Zika virus infection. The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that pregnant women and those planning a pregnancy avoid travel to countries with ongoing Zika virus outbreaks. All travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites
1) Cover up
2) Use insect repellent on exposed skin
3) Consider your accommodations
4) Sleep under a bed net, preferably treated with insecticide
5) Apply a permethrin insecticide to clothing and other travel gear for greater protection
- Pregnant women and those planning a pregnancy should avoid travel to countries with ongoing Zika virus outbreaks.
- If travel cannot be avoided or postponed strict mosquito bite prevention measures should be followed due to the association between Zika virus infection and increased risk of serious health effects on their unborn baby.
- Travellers returning from countries with ongoing Zika virus outbreaks:
- For pregnant women, if you develop symptoms that could be consistent with Zika virus infection, you should consult a health care provider.
- For women planning a pregnancy, it is strongly recommended that you wait at least two months before trying to conceive to ensure that any possible Zika virus infection has cleared your body.
- For male travellers, Zika virus can persist for an extended period of time in the semen of infected males, therefore
- It is strongly recommended that, if you have a pregnant partner, you should use condoms for the duration of the pregnancy.
- It is strongly recommended that you and your partner wait to conceive for six months by using a condom.
- It is recommended that you should consider using condoms with any partner for six months.
Consult your health care provider at least six weeks before travel for further details or if you are exhibiting symptons after travelling to affected areas.
Information provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada.