Flu treatment and prevention

Flu treatment and prevention 

Seasonal influenza, or "the flu", is a common respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses, which can easily be spread between humans. Although most people recover from the flu in a week or two, it can lead to serious complications such as bacterial pneumonia, ear or sinus infection, or worsening of chronic medical conditions.

Download our flu infographic.

Where to get help for the flu

Your pharmacist is a great source of information when it comes to the flu. Pharmacists can help you stay healthy by administering your flu shot, and they can help you cope with your flu symptoms if you get sick.

However, it’s important to know when to seek medical attention from your physician. Talk to your doctor immediately if you experience: 

  • sudden dizziness
  • pressure or pain in your abdomen or chest
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • blue or purple discolouration of your lips
  • confusion
  • seizures
  • persistent or severe vomiting
  • flu symptoms that resolve and then return with a fever and worsened cough.

Know your flu symptoms

The flu is not the same as a cold. Although some of the symptoms are similar, a cold usually lasts for a shorter period of time and the symptoms are less intense.

Many people experience a sudden onset of flu symptoms such as a headache, fatigue, and muscle aches.  Other symptoms, such as a fever or feeling feverish, cough, runny or stuffy nose, chills, and muscle aches, can also occur.   

Some people may also experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

How to prevent and treat the flu

The flu season in Canada generally runs from mid-October to April, so try to be extra careful during these months.

  • The most effective way to protect yourself from the flu is to get the influenza vaccine every year. The best time to get your vaccine is early in the flu season when the vaccine becomes available in your area. Speak to your pharmacist for more information.
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, especially during flu season and after coming into contact with potential sources.
  • Try to avoid large crowds of people, where viruses may spread easily.

If you do become sick, follow these tips to help ensure you don’t spread the flu virus:

  • Stay at home if you are not feeling well.
  • Wash your hands frequently and well using liquid soap and water.
  • Practice good coughing and sneezing etiquette: cough and sneeze into your sleeve near your elbow, or use a tissue and throw it away promptly, and then wash your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Do not share personal items or drinks.
  • Disinfect commonly used surfaces.

The following tips can help treat your symptoms if you get sick:

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Prevent dehydration by drinking clear fluids, including water, broth, and electrolyte beverages.
  • Use a humidifier to help you breathe more easily.
  • Over-the-counter medications can help ease some of the symptoms of the flu, but will not make you less contagious.  There are many different products available, so speak to your pharmacist to see which is most suitable for your symptoms. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a chronic medical condition, your pharmacist can help you decide which one may be the most appropriate product for you.

Antibiotics are not effective in treating the flu. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, and are not effective against viral infections, including seasonal influenza.

Learn more

Talk to your pharmacist if you have additional questions about how to prevent and recover from the flu. The following websites also contain information on seasonal influenza.

Please note:
The information provided on this site is not medical advice and is not intended to replace a consultation with your pharmacist or physician. If you have questions about your medication(s) or are experiencing a health concern, please talk to your pharmacist.

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