As we transition into the fall and start to prepare for colder weather, we must also prepare for influenza season. Influenza is a viral respiratory infection that most commonly occurs in the fall and winter months. A common misconception is that influenza is the same as the common cold; however, influenza generally results in more severe illness that lasts longer. Although both are viral infections, influenza is characterized by a headache, full body chills and aches, fever, and extreme fatigue whereas the common cold involves a sore throat, a runny nose or nasal congestion, and sneezing.
Influenza is spread through respiratory droplets that are released when someone infected coughs, sneezes, or even talks. It generally takes one to three days after being exposed to influenza to start experiencing symptoms. Although influenza lasts between seven to ten days, adults are most infectious during the first five days after symptoms begin, but children can remain infectious up to seven days after symptom onset. There are multiple ways to reduce the spread of influenza including:
- Practicing proper hand hygiene after using the washroom, before eating, or touching any part of your face.
- Staying home when you are sick and making sure to properly cover your mouth if you are coughing or sneezing
- Disinfecting surfaces regularly (the influenza virus can survive on objects and spread via direct contact with dried mucus)
Although contracting influenza can result in severe illness, especially for the elderly, young children, and those who are immunocompromised, your PharmaChoice pharmacist is available to support you in preventing and treating influenza. From administering your annual influenza vaccine, to helping you choose over-the-counter medication for symptomatic relief, or counseling you on an antiviral medication should you be prescribed one to help treat influenza, your pharmacist plays a large role in helping you maintain your wellbeing during influenza season. Keep reading to better understand how your pharmacist can support you:
- Vaccination: In Canada each province as an influenza vaccine campaign that is publicly funded. Every year, health experts craft a vaccine that targets the most prevalent strains of the virus. This vaccine will not give you the flu, it primes your immune system to recognize and fight the virus if you are exposed to it. Talk to your pharmacist today for more information on your province’s influenza vaccine campaign and to find out when you can get your flu shot.
- Over-the-Counter Medication: Even if you practice every measure to keep you and your family safe from the flu, the flu can still sneak up on you. Luckily, there are many medications available over-the-counter to help you relieve your flu symptoms. Your pharmacist is ready to help choose the best product for you.
- Antiviral Medication: Not everyone who contracts influenza needs an antiviral, but in some cases they are used to help prevent infection or reduce the duration of symptoms. There are many factors that go into deciding whether someone requires antiviral therapy or not, but you can rest assured that if you do require an antiviral, your pharmacist will be ready to guide you through the treatment.
It is important to protect you and your family against influenza this fall. There are many strategies to reduce your risk of becoming ill, with the most important being getting your influenza vaccine. Talk to your PharmaChoice pharmacist today to learn more about the flu vaccine being offered this season and if it is right for you. If you catch the flu, there are many drug and non-drug measures (such as getting plenty of rest and drinking enough fluids) to help you feel better as quickly as possible.
Infection Prevention and Control Canada. (2022). Season Influenza, Avian Influenza and Pandemic Influenza. Retrieved August 23, 2023 from https://ipac-canada.org/influenza-resources