Influenza self-care – Care and protect

How to take care of yourself and others with influenza

Choose to immunize

Seasonal influenza vaccine

Since the influenza virus is always changing, the seasonal influenza vaccine is updated each year based on the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO).

  • The seasonal influenza vaccine contains the three virus strains most likely to circulate in the coming year. This means you need to get immunized every year.
  • Seasonal influenza vaccine helps to protect people against infection with seasonal influenza.
  • The vaccine is available every year beginning in the fall.
  • It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to work.

Read more on influenza immunization

Pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccine

One complication that can occur following influenza infection is pneumonia. The pneumococcal vaccine protects against the bacteria that most often causes pneumonia. Alberta Health and Wellness provides this vaccine free of charge to:

  • People aged 65 years and older;
  • Residents of long-term care facilities;
  • People two years of age and older with certain chronic health conditions;
  • People living in homeless or chronically disadvantaged situations;
  • Pneumococcal vaccine for babies is included in Alberta’s routine immunization program.

Most people only need to receive the pneumococcal immunization once in their lifetime. The vaccine can be given at any time of the year and can be administered at the same time as the influenza vaccine.

  • Read about pneumococcal immunization

Clean your hands

One of  the single most important ways to prevent influenza is by thoroughly cleaning your hands often.

Cover your cough

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing.
  • Throw away tissues after wiping your nose or covering a cough.
  • If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your arm, not into your hands.
  • Clean your hands after coughing, sneezing or using tissues.
  • Keep your hands and fingers away from your eyes, nose and mouth.

Stay home if you are sick

  • Stay home from work, school or other public places and social gatherings when you are ill until you are feeling better.
  • Avoid leaving home unless medical care is needed.
  • Avoid close contact with others while contagious (usually for seven days) if possible.

Stay healthy

  • Eat healthy foods and stay physically active to keep your immune system strong.
  • Rest and get plenty of sleep.
  • Don’t smoke. Avoid second hand smoke.

Other ways to protect yourself and others against influenza

  • Avoid large gatherings when influenza is circulating in your community to minimize exposure to the virus.
  • Visit those who have influenza only if necessary, and stand more than two metres (six feet) away from them.
  • Keep personal items separate if a household member is sick. Clean surfaces around them with regular household cleaners.
  • Do not share personal items or drinks.
  • Clean shared surfaces such as door handles, light switches, telephones, computer keyboards, etc. frequently with regular household cleaners.

Be prepared

Everyone should plan ahead in case they become ill with influenza. This is especially important if you live alone, are a single parent or a caregiver.

  • Put together a home preparedness kit before anyone gets sick.
  • Have non-perishable foods, fluids and health and cleaning supplies, such as tissues, alcohol based hand sanitizer, medication for fever and a thermometer on hand.
  • Arrange for a backup caregiver for loved ones, in case you are ill.
    • The best caregiver is someone who does not have risk factors for complications of influenza, e.g., people with asthma or women who are pregnant.
  • Have a back-up plan if child care facilities or schools close and you must continue working.
  • If you are at risk of complications, talk to your health-care provider about what to do if you get sick.