Should you get a flu shot?

Should you get a flu shot?

What is a highly contagious virus, causes an average of 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths each year in Canada, and yet is easily preventable by getting a free vaccination?

As a family caregiver, to protect the person in your care from the flu virus, you must first protect yourself by understanding some basic flu facts.

If you guessed the flu, you’re absolutely correct.

Most people don’t know that the flu virus spreads very quickly and easily. In fact, by the time a person realizes that they have the flu, they’ve probably already passed it on to someone else.

The flu virus isn’t choosy about who it infects. Even healthy people can get the flu every once in a while.

As a family caregiver, to protect the person in your care from the flu virus, you must first protect yourself by understanding some basic flu facts.

What are common flu symptoms?

It’s easy to think you have a cold when you wake up sneezing, coughing, and have achy muscles. However, a cold is just a mild respiratory illness and usually only lasts for a few days. When you have the flu, you can expect to feel the following flu symptoms:

  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Runny or stuff nose
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches and soreness
  • Congestion
  • Cough

These flu symptoms usually surface quickly, are more severe than normal cold symptoms, and can make you feel sick for a few days or even weeks.

Who can get the flu and what are the complications?

Anybody can get the flu but those who have the highest risk of developing serious complications from the flu virus include:

  • Young children
  • Adults aged 65 and over
  • Pregnant women
  • Those who have a compromised immune system because of a chronic health condition or disease

Most people in these groups can recover from the flu naturally, within several days to less than two weeks. However, these flu risk groups are more vulnerable to developing the following health complications because of the flu:

  • Viral or bacterial pneumonia
  • Dehydration (see our infographic and article on Dehydration in Seniors)
  • Ear infection
  • Sinus infection
  • Inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis), or muscle (myositis, rhabdomyolysis) tissues
  • Multi-organ failure

People with chronic medical conditions like asthma or diabetes can also experience a worsening of these symptoms because of the flu.

For these reasons, it’s just as important for family caregivers to get the flu shot as it is for the people in their care, in order to prevent the flu virus from spreading from one person to another, or making a current medical condition even worse.

How often should a person get the flu shot?

Because the flu virus changes every year, experts create a new vaccine each flu season. In order to make sure you and the person in your care stay protected from the flu, get vaccinated every year.

Flu shot myth: busted

Some people don’t want to get an annual flu shot because they think it will do the exact opposite of its intended purpose and make them sick. That can’t be further from the truth. The flu vaccine contains viruses that are either killed or weakened, and therefore cannot give you the flu.

Most people don’t experience an adverse reaction to the flu shot. Common post-flu shot symptoms might include a sore arm or a little redness, or swelling at the injection site, but severe reactions to the flu vaccine are extremely rare.

Conclusion

Join the millions of Canadians who have benefitted from getting the flu shot since 1946. A flu shot is a simple way to protect yourself, the person in your care, and potentially save lives by preventing the spread of infection.

Elizz is powered by Saint Elizabeth Health Care and is the place in Canada for all things caregiving. Elizz services help support family caregivers as well those in your care. Whether you need help with in-home personal care, companionship, specialty health services, or nursing, Elizz services can be customized to your needs and your schedule.

To find out more, call Elizz at 1-855-Ask-Eliz (275-3549) or speak with a Caregiver Coach.

 

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