October 13, 2017 2:25 pm
Updated: October 13, 2017 2:48 pm

Flu season is coming — here’s how Canadians can protect themselves

Scientists have predicted that a nasty flu season is headed for North America after areas in the Southern Hemisphere saw the biggest flu season on record.

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Canadians could be heading towards a nasty flu season, but health experts recommend preparing yourself in advance.

Dr. Andy Simor at the department of microbiology and infectious diseases at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, says while it’s hard to predict exactly what the flu season in Canada this year will look like, it’s useful to look at how other countries like Australia are handling the flu.

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“This past flu season in Australia was much more severe than usual. They had more than double the number of cases compared to the previous year,” he tells Global News, adding there was also an increased rate of hospitalizations and the number of influenza-related deaths.

“It certainly raises concerns, [and] if we’re following the Australian experience, we have a more severe strain.”

READ MORE: Here’s why Canada may be in for a miserable 2017-18 flu season

When does flu season start?

While flu season officially doesn’t start in Canada until November (which goes into April of 2018), Simor adds some public health officials in Toronto, for example, have already seen an increased number of influenza cases.

He adds typically, cases begin to peak in the months of December and January.

READ MORE: Flu shots available in Alberta starting Oct. 23; AHS not offering nasal spray

However, according to Public Health Agency of Canada, it’s too soon to know which strain of the flu will be present during the 2017-18 flu season.

When can I get the shot?

Most vaccines are available during the months of October or November, and since this could vary from region to region, you should always contact provincial and territorial health ministries to find out exact dates.

“People with chronic diseases, everyone 65 years of age and over, children under five years of age and pregnant women should get the flu shot as they are at a greater risk of developing severe complications, such as pneumonia,” says Anna Maddison, senior media relations adviser of Health Canada. “The flu shot is also important for health and other care providers, who are in contact with people at higher risk of complications from the flu.”

And even if you got the flu shot last year, it’s important to note virus strains vary from year to year, wearing off the effectiveness of the shot from the year prior.

In addition to getting a shot from your doctor, pharmacists at retailers like Shoppers Drug Mart and Rexall also provide shots.

Other ways to keep yourself protected

Maddison says you can also protect yourself by cleaning your hands often, coughing or sneezing into your arm and staying home if you’re sick.

READ MORE: Is there a link between the flu vaccine and miscarriage?

Nutrition and wellness are also important for keeping the immune system strong, experts add. Make sure you’re getting a good amount of sleep, drink eight glasses of water and eat those fruits and vegetables.

Simor adds you should also avoid people who are sick or are more likely to get sick during these months.

“Stay away from people who are sick because influenza spreads when people are close and crowded together.”

arti.patel@globalnews.ca

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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