Albertans may be delaying their flu shot this year as it has been a slow start to the flu season, but health officials and pharmacists are warning that they expect the number of Albertans getting sick with influenza to increase over the next couple of weeks.
“Each flu season is a bit different and even though there are fewer cases so far this year, we can expect a spike after the holidays,” says London Drugs Pharmacy Manager, Jason Chan-Remillard. “It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to build full immunity in your system, so we strongly advise people to get their shots right away to avoid getting sick.”
“In addition to getting vaccinated, there are a number of things everyone can do to prevent coming into contact with the virus and reducing your chances of getting sick,” says Chan-Remillard.
So what can Calgarians do to avoid the flu? Here are some of Chan-Remillard top tips:
Wash your hands – Frequent handwashing is first and foremost in cold and flu prevention, as winter ills can be picked up everywhere.
Avoid handshakes – Although sometimes unavoidable, shaking hands and then rubbing your nose or eyes, handling a wineglass, or eating finger-food is an effective way to catch something.
Beware of keypads – They are everywhere— at the ATM, a restaurant, the elevator, and virtually every retail establishment. Public computers found in schools and libraries are also a hazard during cold and flu outbreaks. Influenza is a highly contagious viral infection that is transmitted by airborne droplets that can survive up to 48 hours outside the body on other surfaces. So, once again, wash your hands as frequently as possible.
Eat well – Fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain phytonutrients that help you fight viruses by building up your immune response. Proteins too are needed to galvanize the immune system, so make sure you consume low-fat healthy protein with every meal.
Wash the top of drink cans – Imagine that the person who arranges cans on the shelves of the supermarket has a nasty cold and sneezes all over the cans. Or, suppose a fellow shopper does the same. Now imagine you take a can home, flip the lid and drink from it. Always wash the outside of cans before drinking from them.
Hands away from your face – Touching your face when your hands have picked up a virus will put that virus in touch with the mucous membranes of your mouth, nose or eyes—a surefire way to become sick fast.
Use paper towel – Rather than use cloth towels in the bathroom when someone has a cold, use paper towel. Viruses can remain alive for several hours on fabric. If you don’t like the idea of paper towels, make sure everyone has, and uses, their own cloth towel.
Take care when exiting public washrooms – Of course, you wash your hands in the public washroom but beware what’s lurking on the exit door handle. Many people fail to wash their hands before exiting. To remain free of germs, use a tissue or paper towel to cover the door handle.
Heed sneeze etiquette – Although this won’t stop you from catching a cold, it may prevent others from becoming infected. If you need to sneeze in a public place, and you don’t have a tissue to sneeze into, turn your head into your elbow.
Relax and sleep – Stress suppresses the immune system and makes you more likely to catch whatever is going around. So try to relax and take some peaceful time for yourself. Since the immune system repairs itself during sleep, be sure to get extra shut-eye during cold and flu season.