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Dawn Juristy is a Medicine Shoppe pharmacist in Calgary, Alberta.

Todd Korol

As Medicine Shoppe pharmacist Dawn Juristy knows, there are a lot of things to get done when autumn rolls around. As the seasons change and the days get shorter, influenza season is on the horizon. Though you might be ready to go into hibernation, she says there are some things you shouldn't procrastinate over, for your own health and that of your loved ones – like getting prepared for flu season.

How your pharmacist can help

"Now, with pharmacists being able to provide the flu vaccine, it's really simple," Juristy says. Relatively recent changes in legislation allow your Medicine Shoppe pharmacist to administer the flu shot–without needing to schedule an appointment or visit a public health unit with a long lineup. "It can really add to the convenience factor of protecting yourself in that season," she says. "Even if people believe it's a valuable thing to do, it's a bit daunting if you have to go to a public health unit or something like that and wait in line." There are other advantages to going to your regular pharmacist for the shot: because they will have your complete medication record, your pharmacist will be able to give you expert advice.

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Juristy owns a Medicine Shoppe location in Calgary, Alberta. Like other Medicine Shoppe pharmacists across the country, she spends the fall and winter months providing advice and managing therapy, hence helping her patients ward off illness. She knows the importance of getting as many Canadians as possible vaccinated before the start of flu season.

A few numbers

"Every season, millions of Canadians will get the flu, and we see approximately 20,000 flu-related hospitalizations every year. We should not forget that, unfortunately, we see over 4,000 deaths each year in Canada related to the flu," she says. Although much reliable information on the flu shot is available and although it is strongly recommended by our government to get vaccinated, people are still hesitant about the vaccine: according to Statistics Canada, in 2012, less than 30 per cent of all Canadians were vaccinated against the flu.

For most healthy adults, it's true that an average bout of the flu can come and go in the span of three or four days with few lingering symptoms – though that time could be better spent enjoying your regular activities or working on a favourite project than sick in bed. But the real concern over low vaccination rates is the increased likelihood of the virus being passed on to groups at high risk of hospitalization or even death from complications from influenza.

"There does tend to be (groups that are) most at risk from flu-related complications, and (that includes) adults over the age of 65," says Juristy, as well as "adults or children who have chronic health conditions or have an impaired immune system, children under the age of 16 months, women who are going to be pregnant during the flu season, (and) anyone that's living in a nursing home or a long-term care facility."

Why you should get vaccinated every year

Remember, Juristy says, last year's vaccination won't cut it for this season. "Every year there's minor changes in the virus – they call these antigenic drifts. And these occur nearly every year, so experts look at what they think is going to be the problematic strain," she explains. "The vaccine you got the previous year may not offer protection on strains that are in the upcoming flu season, so it is important to get that vaccination every year to get the best protection."

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Studies indicate that the effectiveness of the vaccine varies from year to year depending on whether the actual vaccine is a good match for the actual strain of the virus. Overall, the effectiveness can be as high as 90 per cent.

Medicine Shoppe pharmacists are also available to answer questions and devise other strategies for staying healthy during flu season. They can even recommend vitamin and

mineral supplements to keep your immune system in peak condition as winter approaches.

A visit to Medicine Shoppe can get you and your family prepared for flu season with a host of remedies and prevention strategies. A Medicine Shoppe pharmacist is there to help – and to help you get vaccinated. They can also help with any potential side effects from the shot, though these are generally mild.

Facts (and myths) about flu treatment

Medicine Shoppe has over 220 locations across Canada that have the ability to administer this year's flu vaccination. They can help you get ready for flu season with

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advice on the best over-the-counter medication you should always have in your medicine cabinet. Find the one nearest you by visiting

  • FACT: Getting a flu shot greatly reduces your risk of the flu.

    While it’s not 100 per cent effective for all people, the immunization ensures that, should you catch the virus, your symptoms will be significantly less severe – leaving you more time to do the things you enjoy.

  • FACT: Many other factors are important when it comes to avoiding the flu.

    “Our mothers were right,” Juristy says. “Washing hands frequently is one of the best actions you can take in terms of flu prevention.”

    She also recommends frequently disinfecting surfaces that people commonly touch like doorknobs, phones and television remotes.

    Eating nutrient-dense healthy foods, drinking plenty of water and getting physical activity as well as plenty of rest also help in the fight, she says.

  • MYTH: “I got the flu shot and got the flu two days later, so the vaccine must have made me sick.”

    In fact, in most cases, the vaccine is made up of a dead virus, so it’s incapable of making you sick. But it takes two weeks after getting the vaccine to benefit from its full protection.

  • FACT: The flu shot protects you and it protects others

    If you have children, someone with a chronic illness, or older adults in your life, getting the flu shot is especially important because it keeps you from passing it on. Ask your Medicine Shoppe pharmacist if the flu shot is right for your loved ones as well.

Pharmacists in the Yukon, NWT and Nunavut need the assistance of a nurse to administer flu shots. Please enquire at your local pharmacist for more information.

This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's Globe Edge Content Studio. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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