WHAT IS INFLUENZA OR THE FLU?
In Canada, approximately 12,200 people are hospitalized each year and about 3,500 people die each year due to complications from influenza. Infants, older adults and those with certain chronic health conditions are most vulnerable.
Many often confuse the common cold with the flu but the two are caused by different viruses.
While both illnesses have similar symptoms, the flu is much more severe and can result in serious complications requiring hospitalization.
The following can help differentiate between the two:
|SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS||INFLUENZA aka FLU||COLD|
|Sneezing, stuffy nose||Sometimes||Common|
|Cough||Common||Mild to moderate|
Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may occur especially in children.
WHO CAN GET THE INFLUENZA VACCINE?
Anyone over the age of 6 months old can get the influenza vaccine including pregnant women.
The vaccine is especially recommended for:
- Children, adults over the age of 65 years and those who come into frequent contact with them
- Pregnant women
- Women who breastfeed as passive immunity can be passed on to the newborn
- Healthcare workers, childcare providers and teachers
- Individuals with chronic conditions who are at high risk of complications and hospitalization from the flu including those with asthma, COPD, heart failure, cancer, diabetes and kidney disease amongst others
WHO SHOULD NOT GET THE INFLUENZA VACCINE?
Those who have had a severe allergic reaction to the influenza vaccine – this does not include those who report having the cold or “flu” or side effects (mild redness, tenderness and swelling at the injection site) after the vaccine.
There is a small amount of egg protein in the vaccine. Having an egg allergy does not mean you cannot get the vaccine, with the exception of those who get an anaphylactic reaction from exposure to eggs or egg products. Anaphylactic reaction means those who get swelling of the lips, tongue or eyelids with or without difficulty breathing with or without vomiting.
CAN I GET THE FLU FROM THE FLU VACCINE?
No, the flu vaccine cannot cause influenza1. This is because the vaccine either consists of viruses that have been killed (and therefore cannot cause infection) or simply proteins from the virus. The Flu Mist vaccine, which is sprayed into the nostrils, consists of a live-attenuated or weakened virus that is not capable of causing infection where temperatures are warm such as in the lungs.
WHY DID I GET SICK WITH FLU-LIKE SYMPTOMS AFTER I GOT THE VACCINE?1
Some will say the flu vaccine makes them sick. Here are some possible explanations as to why some get flu-like symptoms despite getting the vaccine:
- The vaccine protects you from influenza viruses only. This means that you can get other respiratory illnesses from other viruses including the rhinovirus which causes the common cold, NOT the flu.
- One could have been exposed to the influenza virus and thus gotten the flu before getting vaccinated or during the two-weeks that it takes for the immune system to respond to the vaccine.
- The effectiveness of the flu shot depends on the “match” between the strains of influenza used to make the vaccine and those causing the illness. According to the CDC, during the seasons where there is a match between viruses used to make the vaccine and the circulating strains, the risk of having to see your doctor due to the flu can be reduced by up to 60%.
WHEN CAN I GET THE FLU SHOT?
Flu season starts in the late fall and winds down in the Spring. You can get the flu shot at anytime however we recommend getting vaccinated early in the season so you are protected through to the spring.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Canadian Immunization Guide Chapter on Influenza and Statement on Seasonal Influenza Vaccine for 2018-2019
- Toronto Public Health Communiqué