It is cold and flu season again, whether we like it or not. Now is the time to review some facts about the common cold. Everyone has been through this illness at some point, so it is just a matter of refreshing our memories for the new season.

Influenza cycles yearly throughout the world. It is most prevalent during the colder months where we are, in the northern hemisphere. Symptoms usually develop two days after exposure, but can range from one to four days.1 Typical symptoms include the sudden onset of a dry cough, fever, muscle/joint pains, headache, runny nose, sore throat and malaise (generally feeling unwell). These usually last for a week, but the cough can last two weeks or longer. Most people recover without medical attention.

It is spread through droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs. These droplets contaminate surfaces and are also dispersed in the air. Other people in close proximity will breathe in these droplets and become infected. This is how the flu is able to spread so easily in the community.

Control methods for influenza include frequent hand washing, covering your mouth with your arm when sneezing, coughing into a tissue, staying home when feeling ill to prevent the spread, and vaccinations. Getting your annual flu shot is by far the most effective means to prevent you and your family from contracting influenza each year.

There are several reasons why you should get your flu shot each year. Yes, it allows your body to build up antibodies to fight the flu. Many people who receive this vaccination will not have any symptoms when they contract influenza, or experience very mild symptoms. Protecting yourself in the short term is important, but annual flu vaccines will protect you in the long term as well. Each year you receive the flu shot will help you build up different influenza antibodies, as the virus changes all the time. This allows you to have numerous antibodies stored in your system as you get older. Thus, giving you a better chance of surviving a bad case of the flu when you are a senior and your immunize system does not work as well.

The other great reason to get your flu shot is to help prevent the spread to everyone you come into contact with in your life. Appeal to your altruistic nature and think about your family, friends, and co-workers. You do not want to spread the flu to them, and people you come into contact with may not have as healthy an immune system as yourself. Getting the flu shot means you are less likely to spread it to these individuals who could end up becoming very sick. Children and seniors are more at risk of becoming seriously ill from the flu. Please do them and your family a favour this year and get your flu shot.

Watch out for this bug bite!