Flu shot is more than just a shot in the arm

It’s cold; it’s grey; it’s going to snow, and along with the dismal weather comes a message from Toronto Public Health; it’s time to get your flu shot.

The flu shot, known to science as the influenza vaccine, is a combination of modified particles of three different flu viruses. This year’s vaccine contains one A (H3N2) virus, one A (H1N1) virus, and one B virus.

The shot is modelled on last year’s most prevalent strain of the H5-version of influenza. Someone who receives the flu shot develops an immunity for those strains built in to the vaccine.

Influenza is caused by a specific virus that comes around each winter. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, headache, sore throat, cough and malaise that last from a few days to a few weeks.

Every year about 25 per cent of Canadians come down with it, but Graham Beaton, a naturopathic doctor at the Rosedale Natural Health Clinic, says that while everyone is at risk of getting the flu, the shot isn’t essential for the majority of Torontonians.

“Generally for most people the flu shot isn’t necessary,” he said. “Unless you have a compromised immune system or are very young or very old, you don’t need to get it.”

So why does Toronto Public Health (TPH) push everybody to get the shot, especially when the flu rarely becomes a serious illness?

Dr. Michael Finkelstein, associate medical officer of health for TPH, recommends even healthy adults get the flu shot, saying the flu can be severe for a small number of adults, and getting the shot is also a good way to avoid spreading the virus to people who do have a greater chance of having a serious reaction to the flu.

In case a pandemic occurs, everyone will be aware of the importance of the vaccine and know what it is all about, he said.

If the shot makes you wary, don’t worry, there are other ways to fight the flu. Dr. Beaton says the best way to avoid getting the illness is fairly simple – take care of yourself.

“For most people, the best way to combat the flu virus is to make sure they have a healthy immune system,” he said.

“That requires a healthy diet, adequate sleep and good stress management, because too much stress can greatly weaken your immune system.”

Free flu shots are available in Toronto from Nov. 13 to Dec. 9 and again from Jan. 12 to Jan. 18.

Vaccination clinics are located throughout the city. To find the clinic nearest you, please visit www.toronto.ca/health/.

Filed from The Centre for Creative Communications