What are Flu and Pneumonia?


Influenza (the flu) is a highly contagious infection caused by the flu virus – a virus with new strains that change every year. It can cause a mild to severe infection in your nose, sinuses, throat and lungs.

Although flu infections can happen any time of year, the risk increases in the fall and peaks in the winter – that’s why we call this time of year flu season.

Symptoms can be mild to severe and vary depending on your health and age. They include tiredness, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, chills, runny or congested nose, fever, headache and lack of appetite.

The flu is particularly dangerous for young children, pregnant women, those over age 65 and those with chronic conditions like asthma and COPD.  However, it lands anyone of any age in the hospital with potentially deadly complications. Every year, over 12,000 Canadians go to the hospital with the flu and about 3,500 die from the flu.


Pneumonia is the swelling of one or both lungs, usually caused by an infection. Pneumococcal pneumonia is the most common type of pneumonia. It’s caused by bacteria in the upper respiratory tract.

Symptoms can be mild to severe and vary depending on your age and type of pneumonia. They include tiredness, cough, chills, fever, yellow-green phlegm (mucus), shortness of breath, chest pain and feeling very unwell. Those with a chronic condition like COPD or asthma may notice their condition gets worse.

Pneumonia with symptoms that are mild and don’t keep you home is sometimes called “walking pneumonia.” You may not even know you have it because it can feel just like a cold.

 Pneumonia is the leading cause of death and hospitalization for seniors and people with chronic diseases.

If you have symptoms of the flu or pneumonia, even mild ones, see your healthcare provider right away. Both can be life-threatening.  According to NACI 2020-21, the flu and pneumonia combined to rank in the top 10 leading causes of death in Canada.

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If you have questions about getting the flu shot, reach out to our Lung Health Line for free personalized assistance from a Certified Respiratory Educator. Chat online at lunghealth.ca or call toll-free 1-888-344-LUNG (5864).


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