An estimated one in four kids get the flu every year. Children are also at the highest risk for complications.
“The flu can spread when you touch the infected droplets from a cough or sneeze and then touch your own eyes, mouth or nose,” says Dr. Manish Sadarangani, a pediatric infectious diseases physician and Director of BC Children's Hospital's Vaccine Evaluation Center. “Washing your hands and getting the flu shot are key to keeping the flu from infecting your family and others around you. It’s a bad illness we want to stop from spreading.”
Healthy people can get very sick from the flu. It can trigger a fever that can last three to four days, a severe headache, aches and pains, up to three weeks of fatigue, a runny nose, sneezing, coughing and a sore throat. Children can also experience nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Complications can lead to pneumonia and respiratory failure.
Infected people can spread the flu up to one day before and five days after they start showing symptoms. Getting sick with the flu can put others at risk of life-threatening complications, including very young children, seniors 65 and older, and people who have lung or heart disease, chronic health conditions or weakened immune systems.
Healthy pregnant women who get the flu in the second half of their pregnancy are also at greater risk of hospitalization.
The flu shot is safe and effective at preventing illness, especially when combined with proper hand hygiene and staying home when sick.
“Some people worry about getting the flu from the vaccine, but it won’t give you the flu because the vaccine doesn’t contain a live virus,” says Sadarangani. “Mild side-effects can occur, but this rarely lasts for more than 48 hours.”
As of October 11, influenza vaccines are widely available for free in participating pharmacies, health authority clinics and some primary care providers’ offices around the province.
New this year, people registered with the provincial Get Vaccinated system
will automatically be sent an invitation to book their influenza immunization online, just like they can book their COVID-19 vaccines. Alternatively, people can phone the provincial call centre to book their influenza vaccine: 1 833 838-2323.
If you catch the flu, home treatment can help. Get plenty of rest, drink extra fluids, avoid smoke and breathe moist air from a shower or sink filled with hot water. Anti-influenza drugs or antivirals are available by prescription, but work best within two days of the onset of symptoms. Non-prescription cough and cold medications are available and not recommended for children under six years old.
Call your health-care provider if your symptoms develop into difficulty breathing, chest pain or signs of dehydration, including dizziness or low urine output.
Prepare for fall respiratory illnesses by also getting your child vaccinated against COVID-19.
B.C. has opened COVID-19 vaccine registration to all children and youth, aged six months and older. For more information on vaccines and boosters for children, please see the BCCDC website.
Caregivers can register children ages six months and older for COVID-19 vaccination here.