10/19/2015 05:38 EDT | Updated 02/23/2018 08:30 EST

Your Best Defence Against the Flu

Jeffrey Hamilton via Getty Images
Person receiving a vaccine

The tell-tale signs are all around us: coughing friends, sniffling family members and colleagues taking sick days. Yes, flu season has returned once again.

The flu vaccine is also back and it's already made its way into the news. Health officials are reporting that this year's flu vaccine is not as effective as we'd hoped and that it is expected to offer 30 to 50 per cent protection against this year's common strains. Despite this, it still remains our best defense against the flu and all Canadians should make flu immunization a priority. After all, cutting your risk of catching a serious virus by up to half is definitely worth a quick visit to your local pharmacy for the flu shot.

Last year we faced a similar situation where questions arose over the vaccine's effectiveness. New research shows that it is not having a major impact on Canadians immunization habits. In fact, four in five Canadians say the perceived ineffectiveness of last year's flu vaccine won't affect their immunization decision this year. The problem is, still far too many Canadians don't make flu vaccination a priority. In fact, 54 per cent say they are unlikely to get vaccinated this year and 47 per cent mistakenly believe there is no need to get the flu shot annually.

Influenza activity normally occurs from November to March or April. So, fall is the best time to get the flu vaccine as it takes up to two weeks to build immunity after a flu shot and protection will last roughly six months. According to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, everyone should get the flu vaccine, but it is especially important for individuals such as: those 65 years of age and older; healthy children 6 months to 5 years of age; healthy pregnant women, at any stage of pregnancy; and children and adults with chronic medical conditions.

To help keep you and your family healthy this flu season, here are three important preventative measures you can follow:

1. Strengthen your immune system: A strong immune response can give you a big head start. It can help you to ward off illness and recover faster from a disease. Maintain a healthy and active lifestyle and don't forget to stay hydrated.

2. Practice good hygiene: The flu is a contagious disease and it can pass easily and quickly from person to person. Remember to wash your hands frequently, and for at least 10 seconds using warm water.

3. Most importantly, get vaccinated: Don't miss out on the things you love this flu season, make vaccination a priority.