What you can do to minimize sickness during cold & flu season

2 Minutes

Cold and flu season is fast approaching, and one question that many people have is how they can prevent themselves from getting sick. It’s understandable – nobody wants to feel sick, take time off from work and leisure, or potentially pass on a bug to their family and friends. Today we’ll be going over how you can personally prepare to minimize sickness during the upcoming cold and flu season:

1. Get the annual flu shot

This is a fantastic way to prevent yourself from getting the flu. In Canada, it is recommended that everyone 6 months and older receives the annual flu vaccine, with certain exceptions.  The reason that the flu shot needs to be received on a yearly basis is due to the dominating influenza strains changing each year. This also means that each year, scientists and researchers develop a new flu vaccine that targets the most prevalent strains to give you the best protection!

Getting the flu shot is especially important for those who are at high risk of complications and serious illness from getting the flu. This includes individuals who are pregnant, elderly, immunocompromised or at risk of spreading influenza to someone who is high risk. Make sure you check whether you meet the eligibility criteria for receiving a free flu shot at your local pharmacy or clinic.

2. Make sure to take appropriate precautions

This includes staying away from individuals who are visibly sick, staying home when you are sick, washing hands with soap and water regularly (using alcohol-based sanitizer when this is not possible) and covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.  Wearing a mask is also helpful in reducing the spread of pathogens that can cause the common cold or the flu.

In BC, not a single case of influenza was recorded during the 2020-2021 flu season due to the implementation of public health measures to combat COVID-19.  It is clear that simply taking these precautions and educating those around you to do the same is helpful in keeping everyone healthy and happy.

3. Visit your doctor or local pharmacy in a timely manner if you think something is wrong

If you are feeling under the weather, it is important to visit a healthcare professional as soon as possible to get a diagnosis or referral. Pinpointing the cause of your symptoms simplifies treatment and management, making everything easier for you. For instance, if you visit your local pharmacy, the pharmacists can help provide recommendations for over-the-counter (OTC) products that are tailored to your specific symptoms. As well, doctors can prescribe antiviral medications to treat the flu if a diagnosis is confirmed.

4. Keep up to date with the symptoms of flu, cold and COVID-19  

Having an idea of whether you have a cold, the flu or even COVID-19 is helpful in allowing you to think about your next course of action. While a cold is usually resolved by bedrest and OTC medications, the flu and COVID-19 may mean treatment with prescription medication, more severe illness and a longer period of recovery.

Colds are usually mild, indicated by a sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, dry cough and body aches. Rarely do you get other symptoms such as a fever, chills or headache. These are often present with the flu, on top of the other usual cold symptoms. With COVID-19 however, the most distinct symptoms are a fever, cough and shortness of breath. Something that is unique to COVID-19 alone is the loss of taste and/or smell. Self-assessment of your symptoms will help streamline a diagnosis that is in line with your expectations.

As we head into the winter season, it’s important to stay on top of your health and wellness. Whether it’s prevention, treatment or reducing the spread of contagious illnesses such as the cold and flu, make sure that you stay well-informed and speak to a healthcare professional if unsure.


  1. B.C.health officials haven’t found a single case of seasonal flu spreading in thecommunity this winter | CBC News [Internet]. [cited 2021 Sep 14]. Availablefrom: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/influenza-remarkably-absent-in-bc-covid-19-pandemic-1.5878835
  2. FiveThings You Need to Know About Flu Season | Blogs | CDC [Internet]. [cited 2021Sep 14]. Available from: https://blogs.cdc.gov/publichealthmatters/2020/01/fivethingsflu/
  3. Influenza| Immunize BC [Internet]. [cited 2021 Sep 14]. Available from: https://immunizebc.ca/influenza
  4. Is itCOVID-19 or Something Else? | Beaumont Health [Internet]. [cited 2021 Sep 14].Available from: https://www.beaumont.org/health-wellness/blogs/is-it-allergies-or-covid-19