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Prevention

THE FLU VACCINE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT MEASURE YOU CAN TAKE TO PROTECT YOURSELF. Get the flu vaccine and encourage others in your family to get the flu vaccine too. Regardless of what you may have heard, the flu vaccine is generally very safe and greatly reduces your risks. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone aged 6 months or older unless there is a reason it should not be given.

The flu vaccine is especially recommended for people who are at higher risk and those who have regular contact with people at higher risk. People at higher risk from the flu include:

  • People with health conditions such as lung diseases (e.g., asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • People 65 years of age and older and children under 60 months of age
  • Pregnant women
  • Indigenous peoples
  • Residents of nursing homes and other chronic care facilities

Getting the flu vaccine also helps reduce the risk that you will spread the flu to others in your family and community who may be at higher risk of serious complications. The more people who get the flu vaccine in your community, the less risk to everyone of getting the flu. This is called “herd immunity” or “community immunity”.

If you are pregnant, getting the flu vaccine can reduce the risk that your baby will get the flu after it is born.

In individuals aged 65 and older, the immune system response to the flu vaccine is not as strong as it is in younger people. Those aged 65 and older may get more benefit from the high-dose flu vaccine, which has four times the usual dose and is now available for free to seniors in Ontario.

Other measures that can help stop the flu from spreading include:

  • Wash your hands regularly. When soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Keep your hands away from your nose, mouth and eyes when in public
  • Regularly clean common areas of your home (e.g., door handles, light switches, hand rails, taps, remote controls, keyboards)
  • Avoid crowded places and people who have a cold or the flu
  • Sneeze and cough into a tissue then throw it away right after use and wash your hands. If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze and cough into your sleeve.
  • If you are sick with the flu, stay home from work, school and public places

Find a flu vaccine clinic in Ontario by visiting www.ontario.ca/flu.

Preventing pneumonia

Some of the germs that cause pneumonia are easily spread from one person to another. They are carried in the nose and throat of an infected person. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they spray drops of infected saliva (spit) into the air around them. A person who breathes in that air can get pneumonia.

There are many things you can do to lower your risk of getting pneumonia. Not smoking is an important way to help prevent pneumonia. People who smoke, and children whose parents smoke, are at a higher risk of getting pneumonia.

Pneumococcal vaccinations help protect you against invasive pneumococcal infections such as pneumonia, bacteremia (blood infection) and meningitis (infection of the membrane surrounding your brain and spinal cord).

Ask your health-care provider about getting the pneumococcal vaccination. For details on when the pneumococcal vaccinations are required, starting at two months of age, see Ontario’s Routine Immunization Schedule. Some adults may need it every five years. Prevention of pneumonia through immunization is even more important now since some infections have become more resistant to antibiotics.

How to reduce your risk of getting pneumonia

  • If you smoke, try to quit—smoke damages the natural defenses in your lungs (e.g., cilia) that protect you from infections
  • Ask your health-care provider about getting the pneumococcal vaccination
  • Get the flu vaccination each year—since pneumonia can be a complication of getting the flu, the flu vaccine helps reduce the risk of both the flu and pneumonia
  • Stay away from people who are sick
  • Wash your hands regularly—when soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
  • If you have an underlying condition that increases your risk of pneumonia (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis), make sure it’s kept under control
  • If you are at a higher risk from pneumonia and you get a cough, fever or shortness of breath, see your health-care provider right away.
  • Regular exercise, adequate sleep and a healthy diet can strengthen your immune system.

Help prevent the spread of infections:

  • Sneeze and cough into a tissue then throw it away right after use and wash your hands. If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze and cough into your sleeve.
  • If you have a cold or the flu, stay home from work, school and public places
  • Regularly clean common areas of your home (e.g., door handles, light switches, hand rails, taps, remote controls, keyboards)