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Best Ways to Fight the Flu

November 16, 2016 by HealthyFamilies BC

How to prevent getting the flu and spreading flu viruses

If you’ve ever had the flu you know its symptoms can sneak up quickly and take the wind right out of your sail. For most people, flu symptoms make you feel tired, achy, weak and feverish. Sometimes ‘cold-like’ symptoms, like sneezing and coughing, are present.

Influenza (commonly called the flu) can be much more dangerous for people with chronic or underlying health conditions, older adults, and young children. Many people don’t know that it can actually lead to death. So this is serious stuff. People who are at higher risk of serious illness from influenza include:

  • children between six months and five years
  • seniors 65 and older
  • pregnant women
  • Aboriginal people
  • individuals with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems
  • anyone who lives with any of these people
  • visitors to long-term care facilities and hospitals

Flu viruses spread easily. Not just from person to person, but between people and objects too. Think of all the interactions you have in a single day…Getting on and off the bus, exchanging money at the grocery store or shaking hands with a colleague.

How do you to stop the spread of germs?

Wash Your Hands

This may be the simplest, most effective way to prevent spreading germs. 80 per cent of common infections are spread by hands. While out and about, keep your hands away from your face. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose; make sure to wash your hands before and after doing so. If you have to cough or sneeze, do so into a tissue or your shirt sleeve rather than your hands. Throw used tissues in the garbage right away and wash your hands as soon as you can.

What soap is the best soap to use?
Use plain soap rather than antibacterial or antimicrobial soap. Plain soap removes the dirt and grease that attract bad bacteria without killing the good bacteria that lives on your hands. Using antibacterial or antimicrobial products too often can increase the amount of antibiotics in the environment. This may lead to antibiotic resistance, where bad bacteria build up a resistance to medicines (like antibiotics) that used to kill them.

Does hand sanitizer work as well as washing your hands?
No, antibacterial hand rubs don’t clean your hands like hand washing does. If soap and water aren’t available, using an alcohol-based hand rub will kill some bacteria. Check the label of the hand rub; it needs to be at least 60 per cent alcohol to be effective. Learn more.

How long should you wash your hands for?
Rub your hands together under warm water for 20 seconds (sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in your head!). Wash the front and back of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails. Read these hand washing tips for parents to learn special considerations for your little ones.

TIP! Regularly clean surfaces and objects you use often like doorknobs, light switches, and keyboards.

Get a Flu Shot

The influenza vaccine will lower your chance of getting the flu and spreading it to others. It’s especially important to get vaccinated if you have close contact with those that have a heightened risk. Read more.

The vaccine is available in October and early November in BC. If you decide to get it, try to do so by the end of November. Flu season starts in December and it takes about two weeks for your body to build immunity after getting the shot.

Is the flu shot free?
In BC, it’s free to people who are at higher risk and those who have close contact with them. Click here to see who is eligible for the free publicly available vaccine.

Are there flu shot side effects?
The influenza vaccine does not cause the flu. It contains only inactive virus particles, so it’s not possible to get the flu from the vaccine. Common flu shot reactions are mild soreness, redness and swelling where the vaccine was given. More serious reactions, such as anaphylaxis and Guillain-Barré Syndrome are extremely rare. Read these flu immunization myths and facts.

Where can you get a flu shot?
Use the Influenza Clinic Locator to find a clinic near you or contact your local public health unit. Need help finding where immunizations are offered? Call 8-1-1.

TIP! Stay home and rest when you are sick. Not sure if you have the flu? Check your symptoms here. Or call 8-1-1 to talk to a registered nurse any time of the day for free in BC.

Bottom line: Reduce your risk of catching the flu and spreading it to others by washing your hands regularly and getting the influenza vaccine. Living a healthy lifestyle is also a part of protecting you and others around you from getting sick – eating healthy and being active can keep you in good health and help maintain your immune system.

Related blogs

Influenza Vaccine Protects Those Most Vulnerable
Should You Exercise When You’re Sick?

Recommended resources

HealthLink BC: Influenza (Flu) Season
HealthLinkBC: B.C. Immunization Schedules
BC Gov News: Take a shot at protecting yourself and others from the flu
Immunize BC: Influenza
BC Centre for Disease Control: Influenza
Hand Washing Advice for Parents of Toddlers
Immunization in Your Baby’s First Year


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