Everything you need to know about influenza and the flu shot

September 2023

Flu season is fast approaching, and there is no time like the present to brush up on your flu shot knowledge.

If you have questions about the flu, why you should get the flu shot, and what groups are particularly at risk, this article is for you! If you haven’t received the flu shot before or are just curious about this year’s shot, let’s dig into the details to be confident when booking this year’s appointment.

What is influenza, aka “the flu”? 

Influenza is a viral infection that can cause a wide variety of symptoms. Some people may experience severe symptoms, while others may be completely asymptomatic. Most people are contagious from the day before they show symptoms to approximately five days after symptoms start, although children and those with weakened immune systems can be contagious longer. 

The average person will recover within three to seven days, but there are cases when severe illness develops, which can result in hospitalization and, in extreme instances, death.

What are the symptoms of influenza?

Influenza symptoms come on quickly and can vary from person to person. Symptoms can include some or all of the following:

  • High fever
  • Cough
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Chills or feeling feverish
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose

While not extremely common, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can also occur, especially in children. 

Why you should get the flu shot

The flu shot is your single best defence against the flu. The flu shot is recommended for almost everyone from 6 months of age and older. 

Not only does the flu shot help reduce your risk of getting sick, but it also reduces your risk of developing severe illness and complications if exposed to influenza. 

There are many benefits to the flu shot beyond your health and wellness. You can help protect the people you are physically close to because when you are vaccinated, you’re less likely to spread the virus to others.  

By getting the flu shot and protecting yourself, and others, from the flu, you reduce the overall burden on the healthcare system during respiratory virus season. 

Groups at high risk of complications from influenza

Some high-risk individuals are at an elevated risk of developing complications if they contract the flu. If you fall into any of these groups, getting your flu shot each flu season is essential.

  • Indigenous Peoples
  • People who are pregnant
  • People 65 years or older
  • Children six months to less than five years of age
  • Adults and children with chronic health conditions, such as:
    • Kidney disease
    • Morbid obesity
    • Heart or lung disorders
    • Diabetes and other metabolic diseases
    • Anemia or other blood disorders and diseases
    • Neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions
    • Cancer and other immune-compromising conditions
  • Children six months to less than five years of age who are undergoing treatment for long periods with acetylsalicylic acid (ASA)
  • People of any age who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities

Why you need to get a flu shot each year

To protect yourself from the flu, getting the flu shot each year is essential.

The flu virus changes over time. That is why epidemiologists closely monitor the viruses every year and create an annual shot that includes the strains expected to circulate in the upcoming flu season. 

Visit your doctor or local pharmacy to book your flu shot today. Or find a flu clinic near you by visiting Health Canada’s Canada-wide flu clinic list.


Please always check with a medical professional to ensure these strategies are right for you.

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