Protecting yourself and others from the flu

Getting a flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and others from the flu. The flu shot is safe and available for free to all Nova Scotians 6 months of age and older.

The flu vaccine is available from most family physicians, family practice nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists and walk-in clinics. People can contact their local public health office if they are unsure where to get the flu vaccine.

Who should get a flu shot

All Nova Scotians over 6 months old are encouraged to get a flu shot, but especially people at high risk of complications, including:

  • Adults 65 years of age and older
    • The immune system changes with age and this can make it make it harder for the body to fight off infections. People over 65 are also more likely to have health conditions which can worsen if they get the flu.

  • Babies and children aged 6 months to 5 years
    • Because of their age, their immune system is still building immunity to fight off serious infections.

  • Pregnant women
    • During pregnancy, the body goes through many changes that can make it harder for the body to fight off infections.
    • Women who get the flu shot during pregnancy pass on immunity to their baby. Babies younger than 6 months can't get vaccinated against the flu. Getting your flu shot can help protect your baby from the flu after birth.

  • Anyone with chronic conditions like heart disease, asthma and diabetes
    • These conditions can affect a person's immune system and make it harder to fight off infections.

  • Indigenous peoples
    • Indigenous peoples have a higher risk of flu-related complications and hospitalizations. This is because of high rates of chronic health conditions, reduced access to healthcare and other social and environmental factors like poor housing conditions.

People who live with or care for people in the high-risk groups are also encouraged to get a flu shot because they’re more likely to spread the flu to those in high-risk groups.

Flu symptoms

Influenza, most commonly called “the flu”, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses. It affects the nose, throat and lungs.

Symptoms of the flu include:

  • high fever and chills
  • headache
  • general aches and pains
  • fatigue and weakness
  • a runny, stuffy nose
  • sneezing
  • sore throat

The flu and a cold can have similar symptoms. The Government of Canada has information about the differences between the flu and a cold.

Recovering from the flu

Most people recover from the flu in 5 to 7 days.

If you think you have the flu, you should stay home, get plenty of rest and drink lots of clear liquids. You can also call 811 to speak with a registered nurse who can help you manage your symptoms and give you advice about whether you need to seek additional care.

For some people, the flu can be serious. If you’re at high risk of complications, or if your symptoms get worse or last a long time, you should contact your health care provider. Possible complications of the flu include pneumonia, worsening of chronic conditions, and death.

Preventing the flu

To avoid getting and spreading the flu:

  • get your flu shot
  • wash your hands frequently
  • cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow
  • limit contact with other people when you’re sick
  • limit touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • don’t share drinking glasses, utensils, bottles, mouth guards or cosmetics
  • disinfect surfaces like taps, doorknobs and countertops