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St. Joseph's Health Centre Toronto

How to stay healthy this flu season


Flu season has arrived and we are seeing a significant increase of influenza cases in the community and in patients across the city, including here at St. Joe’s.

Our Emergency Department and CIBC Just for Kids paediatric walk-in clinic are always here when you need us, but it’s also important that everyone know what healthcare options are available when you are sick. If you have a serious medical emergency always call 911 or go to your nearest Emergency Department. Patients with the most serious conditions are seen first in our Emergency Department.

Other healthcare options available to you:

Additional healthcare services in your community

How to stay healthy during this flu season

Our health experts Dr. Jennie Johnstone, Infection Control Officer and infectious diseases physician and Dr. Carol Hughes, staff family physician in our Urban Family Health Team/Family Medicine Centre say there are some simple things you can do to help protect yourself and others:

1. Get your flu shot.
Though most people who get the flu will find it goes away with the proper amount of rest and medicine, it poses a serious risk to children under five, pregnant women, the elderly and those with impaired immune systems. Dr. Johnstone says getting vaccinated against the flu is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of getting sick and protecting the people around you. Get your free flu shot at our pharmacy (inside St. Joe’s) Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

2. Clean your hands.
The best way to avoid picking up bacteria and germs when we touch things is to clean our hands; this will help stop us from spreading viruses to ourselves and others. Using either soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer will keep your hand clean. Also avoid touching your eyes and face and remember to cover your cough or sneeze.

3. Exercise regularly.
Staying in shape helps build up your immune system so it’s ready to fight off viruses during flu season. Dr. Hughes recommends you get 150 minutes a week of moderate-to-high exertion exercise to the point that you’re breathing heavily and getting your heart rate up.

4. Keep your stress in check.
Tension or muscle aches and pains can be warning signs that you are experiencing stress. Stress can affect sleep, eating habits and exercise, causing a domino effect that threatens your immune system and your body’s ability to stay healthy. Dr. Hughes says self-awareness is key; once you acknowledge that you’re stressed, you can begin looking at what the root cause is and taking steps to alleviate it.

5. Eat healthy food.
You are what you eat. Dr. Hughes says it’s important that we follow Canada’s food guide and get fresh, healthy foods that are nutrient-rich to help keep our energy levels up. Eating three meals a day will make sure you stay fueled all day long and don’t experience a crash.

6. Get enough sleep.
Adults need at least seven hours each night to be at their best the next day. Dr. Hughes says it’s key to organize your bedtime routine: try putting your phone away 30 minutes before you’re planning on going to sleep so that your body isn’t stimulated by the light from the screen; making sure your room is a good temperature; and sleeping at the same time each night to create a consistent routine.

7. Increase your vitamin D.
There is research that shows Vitamin D (the “sunshine vitamin”) is linked to a healthy immune system. In the winter, it can be difficult to get sunlight naturally – especially when it’s getting dark as people are leaving work. Dr. Hughes says consider talking to your family doctor about taking a supplement to help boost your levels which in turn will better prepare your body to fight off infection.

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