Fight The Flu

Are You At High Risk?

The flu vaccination is especially recommended for people who are at higher risk and those who have regular contact with people at higher risk. People at higher risk from the flu include:

  • People with health conditions such as lung diseases (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,asthma)
  • Very young children and seniors
  • Pregnant people
  • Indigenous peoples
  • Residents of nursing homes and other chronic care facilities

Why Get the Shot?

Each year in Canada, thousands of people have to be hospitalized due to the health complications stemming from pneumonia and flu. Given that these risks are especially impactful to older adults, keeping our immunizations up to date is a crucial step in protecting our lung health. Without a doubt, vaccines remain the best preventative option to decrease hospitalizations and keep each other safe.

Help Reduce The Risk 

It is the most important measure you can take to protect yourself from the flu. It is recommended for everyone aged 6 months or older unless there is a reason it should not be given. The flu vaccination is given every year in the fall. It is needed annually since it contains protection against a new set of viruses every year, plus the immunity you get from the vaccination decreases over time.

Getting the flu vaccination also helps reduce the risk that you will spread the flu to others in your family and community who may be at a higher risk of serious complications. The more people who get the flu vaccination in your community, the less risk to everyone of getting the flu. This is called “herd immunity” or “community immunity”.
Pneumonia can be a complication of getting the flu. Therefore, the flu vaccination helps reduce the risk of both the flu and pneumonia infections. If you are pregnant, getting the flu vaccine can reduce the risk that your baby will get the flu after it is born.

In individuals aged 65 and older, the immune system response to the flu vaccination is not as strong as it is in younger people. Those aged 65 and older may get more benefit from the high-dose flu vaccination, which has four times the usual dose. 

The Pneumonia Vaccine: Who Knew?

Pneumococcal vaccinations help protect you against pneumococcal infections such as pneumonia, bacteremia (blood infection) and meningitis (infection of the membrane surrounding your brain and spinal cord).

The main causes of pneumonia:

  • Exposure to a germ (bacteria, virus, fungus)
  • Weakened immune system
  • Not able to cough out the germs/mucus from your lungs
  • Pneumonia is occasionally caused by inhaling chemicals (fumes, liquids, particles) in the workplace
  • Unintentionally aspirating (inhaling) food or vomit into your lungs can cause “aspiration pneumonia”

Factors that increase your risk of getting pneumonia include:

  • Cigarette smoking
  • Chronic lung disease (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis) or other chronic diseases (e.g., heart, kidney, liver, anemia, diabetes)
  • Very young (less developed immune system) and very old (less effective immune system)
  • Residents of a nursing home or other chronic care facility
  • Being a patient in a hospital
  • “Aspiration pneumonia” can occur when something is aspirated (inhaled) into the lungs. This can be due to:
    Brain dysfunction (e.g., dementia, stroke, brain injury) increasing the risk that you will aspirate (inhale) food
    Overdose of alcohol or drugs increasing the risk that you will aspirate (inhale) vomit
  • Weakened immune system (e.g., HIV/AIDS, taking corticosteroid pills, organ transplant, being treated for cancer)
  • Recent surgery

The Pneumococcal Vaccination

Ask your health-care provider about getting the pneumococcal vaccination. For details on when the pneumococcal vaccinations are required, starting at two months of age, see Ontario’s Routine Immunization Schedule.

Some adults may need it every five years. Prevention of pneumonia through immunization is even more important now since some infections have become more resistant to antibiotics.

Pneumococcal vaccinations help protect you against invasive pneumococcal infections such as pneumonia, bacteremia (blood infection) and meningitis (infection of the membrane surrounding your brain and spinal cord).

Portrait,Of,A,Senior,Woman,With,Protective,Face,Mask,Showing

Registration for the Lung Health Roundtable with Dr. Dawn Bowdish

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It’s time to separate fact from fiction. Test your flu knowledge with this quiz. 

Need hints from an expert? Our Certified Respiratory Educators are just a phone call, email, or web chat away. Reach our Lung Health Line at 1-888-344-LUNG (5864), info@lunghealth.ca, or chat with us live.

True or False?

Most Canadians receive the flu vaccine each year.

False

We’ve got a long way to go! In the 2018/2019 flu season, only 34% of adults aged 18-64 and 70% of those aged 65+ received the flu vaccine.

True or False?

The influenza vaccine is your best defence against the flu.

True

While the vaccine doesn’t totally erase a healthy adult’s flu risk, it does reduce it by up to 60% (we like those odds). That means that some people who get their flu shot will still get the flu. But if they do, they are less likely to experience the flu’s most severe complications, like pneumonia. A person who gets their seasonal flu shot is also less likely to be hospitalized, or have their pre-existing condition (like asthma or COPD) get worse. It’s worth a shot.

True or False?

There’s only one kind of flu vaccine, and it's one-size-fits-all.

False

There are a number of vaccines available to give you the best possible protection, including innovations like new non-egg, cell-based options. If you’re over age 65, or have a chronic lung condition, ask your healthcare provider how you can protect your lungs even more with a high-dose flu vaccine and the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine.

True or False?

The flu vaccine does NOT increase your COVID-19 risk.

True

A Canadian research study found the flu vaccine significantly reduces your risk of influenza illness with no effect on your risk of infection with coronaviruses or other non-influenza respiratory viruses. The flu shot really does give you #OneLessThing to worry about.
View the study

True or False?

The flu vaccine can’t give you the flu.

True

The vaccine you receive has an inactivated or weakened influenza virus. Relax – it can’t give you the flu.

If you do develop symptoms within two weeks of getting your vaccine, you probably already had the virus without even knowing it. Symptoms can also be a result of your body’s immune system working hard to build immunity. Remember: the most common reactions to the vaccine itself are much less severe than symptoms of the actual flu.

True or False?

The influenza vaccine only protects you.

False

Mask wearing and physical distancing have armed us with the ability to help protect others. It’s time to add flu vaccination to that list.

Getting your annual flu shot is an important way to help protect yourself, your family and your community against influenza. If we all do our part by getting the flu shot, we can also help reduce the burden on our health-care system.

True or False?

What’s the big deal? The flu is just a bad cold.

False

The “common cold” and flu share a few symptoms, but they are caused by different viruses. While most people will recover from the flu in seven-to-10 days, it can be deadly for others. The flu causes about 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths in Canada each year.

Want to tell the difference between a cold and the flu? Scroll up to our handy symptom comparison chart!

In case you missed it:  Flu or False? Let’s Ask a Pharmacist

On November 4, pharmacist Umberto Leone and Certified Respiratory Educator Chris Haromy set out to unpack some of the biggest myths about the flu shot.

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