Unsure about the flu shot? Your questions answered

fluAccording to Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Robin Williams, some Ontario parents still have questions about getting the flu shot for their children.

When deciding whether you and your children should be vaccinated, it’s the facts that count. We sat down with Dr. Williams to get answers to the most frequently asked flu shot questions.

Is the flu shot safe?

In Canada, there are very strict guidelines for making vaccines and safety is a priority. The flu vaccine is safe in healthy children and adults. Serious reactions from the vaccine are rare. Most common reactions include soreness, redness or swelling where the shot has been given, lasting up to two days. Vaccine components rarely cause allergic reactions. Talk to your health care provider regarding the risks and benefits of flu vaccination.

Does the flu shot work?

Yes, a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the flu shot reduced children’s risk of influenza-related admissions by 74 per cent during the 2010-2012 flu seasons.

Is living a healthy and active lifestyle enough to stop you from getting the flu?

While eating well, exercising and washing your hands are certainly important to living a healthy lifestyle, these practices alone can’t prevent you from getting the flu. The flu shot is the best way to avoid getting the flu and becoming seriously ill.

How does the flu shot work?

Vaccination helps strengthen your body’s natural immune response against the flu. The flu shot stimulates your immune system to build antibodies against the virus, making it stronger and ready to fight off the flu.

Can the flu shot cause autism or Guillain-Barré Syndrome?

Some parents express concern that vaccines can cause health issues, such as Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) or autism. GBS may be associated with the influenza vaccine (1 per million recipients), but is more likely to occur after you get infected with the flu (1 per 60,000). The National Advisory Committee on Immunization indicates that alleged health effects from vaccines do not cause autism.

How does the flu virus spread?

The virus spreads mainly from person-to-person coughing or sneezing, but also by touching objects or surfaces with flu viruses on them and then by touching your eyes, mouth or nose. Studies show that flu viruses can survive on surfaces up to 48 hours. Sharing personal items like cell phones, eating utensils, pens and drinks also contribute to the spread of the flu.

What are the most common symptoms of the flu?

Symptoms can vary from person-to-person, but usually includes fever, chills, cough, runny eyes, stuffy nose, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, extreme weakness, and fatigue. Most people will recover within a week to 10 days, but some individuals, including children, are at increased risk of severe complications.

What is the difference between the cold and the flu?

Common cold and flu symptoms are often similar, however, the flu is not a cold. It has potentially serious consequences, such as hospitalization or even death for the most vulnerable, including young children. Last year in Ontario, there were more than 700 children under 10 with confirmed influenza that were hospitalized and eight deaths were reported. Symptoms accompanying the flu often include: fever or chills, body and muscle aches and extreme fatigue.

For more information about the flu, or to locate the nearest flu shot clinic to you, visit www.ontario.ca/flu.

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