Sneezing, sniffles, coughing and aches are all typical symptoms of the common cold — add fever, cold sweats, headaches, exhaustion, and even some gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea, and you likely have yourself the flu.
Every winter in Canada, along with snow and cold weather, comes the dreaded influenza virus — also known as the flu.
“In Canada flu activity can be seen as early as October and may extend into early spring,” says Maja McGuire, Director of Infection Prevention and Control and Occupational Health, Safety and Wellness at North York General Hospital (NYGH). “Canada is not the only country to experience waves of influenza. It is a seasonal bug that causes havoc in the winter months and public health experts often look to the flu season in the southern hemisphere (their winter occurs during our summer) to try to predict trends for our own flu season in Canada as well as which influenza strain is most likely to predominate.”
Winter weather blows in snow and influenza together
“Scientists are still working to understand why influenza peaks in colder months,” says Maja. According to some theories, flu peaks in colder months when people spend more time indoors, closer to other people, and breathing recirculated air.
Others note the virus may survive better in colder, drier climates. Lastly, some believe a lack of sunlight during winter leads to decreased levels of vitamin D and melatonin, which may compromise a person's immune system and ultimately decrease their ability to fight the virus.
Getting ahead of the flu
“We know that flu comes around every October, giving us time to get into better habits for when the ‘flu fighting' season arrives,” says Maja. “Get into the routine of always cleaning your hands. We unknowingly touch dirty surfaces then touch our phone, go out for lunch and make contact with our face and others and spread germs.”
Maja gives four easy tips to help you fight the flu:
- Clean your hands! The best way to stop the spread of germs is to wash your hands often with either soap and water or with alcohol-based hand rub.
- Get the flu shot — it protects you and your loved ones from getting influenza.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough to stop the spread of germs.
- Stay home when you're sick to avoid infecting others.
Get your flu shot at NYGH's Pharmacy
Starting Wednesday, October 18, 2017, patients and visitors can get their free flu shot at North York General's Pharmacy at the General site (4001 Leslie Street). Please bring your OHIP card.
Monday to Friday: 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The pharmacy is closed on statutory holidays.