The flu shot is your best defence against the flu. In Canada, the flu shot is recommended for everyone 6 months and older, but it is especially important for people with diabetes. Here are the main reasons to get the flu shot each year.
Reason #1: You do NOT want to get the flu.
Flu, also known as influenza, is a serious disease with potentially deadly complications. People with diabetes (type 1, type 2 or gestational) are at higher risk for serious complications, such as pneumonia. Getting the flu can also make it more difficult to control your blood sugar levels.
Getting the flu shot is the single best way to protect yourself from the disease. Studies show that the flu shot can prevent 70 to 90% of flu incidence in healthy adults and children.
Reason #2: You need to protect those around you from getting the flu.
The complications from flu can be particularly dangerous for individuals with diabetes, and include a high risk of pneumonia. Whether you are living with diabetes, or support someone living with diabetes, it is important for everyone to get the flu shot every year.
If you are a caregiver, you may think you can protect your loved ones by staying away from them while you are sick, but that doesn’t work with the flu. It is thought that the flu can spread to others one day before symptoms start and up to seven days afterwards. Young children may be contagious for even longer.
Reason #3: You can’t afford to take the time off work or out of your life.
Flu is much worse than a regular upper respiratory tract infection or a cold. It usually involves a very high fever between 39C and 40C (102F – 104F). This lasts three or four days. Other symptoms usually include extreme tiredness and weakness, which can last up to two or three weeks.
These symptoms are likely to be even worse for people who already have a chronic health condition.
Reason #4: You need to get a new flu shot every year.
Flu viruses keep changing and different types turn up almost every year. Immunity to any specific flu virus also declines over time.
Seasonal flu shots are specially formulated for the current type of virus. Getting a new shot every year is the smart way to protect yourself and the people you care about.
Reason #5: The flu shot doesn’t give you flu.
The flu shot doesn’t contain a live virus so it can’t give you the flu. Most people who have the shot report no side-effects. If you do experience side-effects, they are likely to be mild and should only last one to two days. Possible side-effects include soreness or redness at the vaccination site, low grade fever and mild aches.
If side-effects are more severe, call your health care provider.
Quick tip – In addition to getting the flu shot, you can help protect yourself from seasonal illnesses by adopting these healthy habits:
- Wash your hands regularly
- Avoid touching your face, especially your nose, eyes and mouth
- Carry a mini hand sanitizer to use after touching ATM machines, other touch pads or door handles etc in public places
Contact your health care provider to get a flu shot or visit one of the many flu clinics or pharmacists who provide flu shots in the fall. For more information about flu shots in your province, check the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website.