As we head into fall, it’s important to remember that back to school often means back to being sick.
When it comes to the flu, we often look to Australia’s flu season to help prepare for what’s in store for Canada. And from what we are seeing, Australia’s early start to flu season and high hospitalization rates for children is cause for concern.
Because of this, I’m reminding our community of the importance of preventive health measures as we head into a potentially challenging flu season. With children aged five- to 10-years-old making up a high proportion of children being hospitalized with the flu in Australia to date, it’s important we take any precautions we can to prevent the spread of the flu and keep our most vulnerable community members safe.
Here are a few tips for preventing illness this flu season:
Sleeves up!—Thankfully vaccination is one sure way to protect children against the flu. One of the most effective ways to protect yourself and your loved ones this season is by getting your annual flu shot. Flu vaccines can be lifesaving for children, significantly reducing their risk of flu-related death and also reducing risk of severe, life-threatening influenza by up to 75%. Influenza immunity wanes from year to year, so even if you got the flu shot last year, it is important to get vaccinated again for continued protection. You can book your flu shot appointment at your local pharmacy, including through shoppersdrugmart.ca/flu or through the PC Health app, available to download for free at https://www.pchealth.ca/.
Back to our roots—wear the mask—Despite the worst of COVID-19 seemingly being behind us, it taught us the importance and efficacy of wearing a mask to protect yourself, but more importantly to protect others. Wearing a mask covering your nose and mouth is a simple yet effective way to block the spread of germs, especially in public and enclosed spaces. If you are looking to double down on protection, keep that mask handy for any outings in enclosed spaces. Although it is more difficult for children to mask up, it could protect them against sickness.
Keep your hands, and germs, to yourself—Unfortunately, some of us may still get sick despite the preventative measures we’re taking. If you find yourself with symptoms of the flu or COVID-19, it’s important to be cautious with who you are seeing and where you are going. While an illness may feel like a small cold to you, touching your friend’s baby during flu season could be a fatal mistake. It can be tempting to power through feeling sick, but that ultimately puts others at risk. Stay home and isolate while you are feeling under the weather to prevent the spread of illness. The vulnerable members of your community, workplace, or family will appreciate it.
Be sure to visit your local pharmacy to get your flu shot this season. Your pharmacist is there to answer any questions you have about the vaccine, or additional tips on reducing the spread of flu.
Nathan Klaassen is a pharmacist and owner of Shoppers Drug Mart in Kelowna.