Cold and flu: Prevention
Does exposure to cold temperatures, stress or cigarette smoke make us more likely to catch a cold or the flu? Although research on these questions is inconclusive, you can still prevent these infections by keeping the viruses at bay. Find out how.
How to prevent colds or the flu
Here are some tips to help you and your loved ones stay virus-free.
Avoid spreading the cold and flu viruses
- Wash your hands often, preferably with soap and water. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Clean your environment regularly, as the flu virus (also called influenza virus) can survive up to 48 hours on hard surfaces.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and then wash your hands. Never reuse the same tissue. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow or shoulder.
- Stay away from people who have a cold or the flu. If you start to feel either cold symptoms or flu symptoms, stay home so you don’t spread your illness to others.
Get the flu shot!
Every year, between 5% and 10% of adults and up to 30% of children contract the flu. While most healthy adults recover from a bout of flu in 7 to 14 days, this infection can be serious and even life-threatening for vulnerable people, such as people over 65. The World Health Organization estimates that the flu is responsible for between 250,000 and 500,000 deaths per year worldwide.
Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself against the flu. Every year, the influenza vaccine (or flu shot) prevents illness and saves lives. Even if you aren’t at risk of complications, you have a good chance of coming into contact with people who are, such as seniors, pregnant women, or young children. Protect yourself and your loved ones by getting vaccinated every year.
Influenza vaccination usually starts in early November. You can get the flu shot at any point throughout the flu season, but it’s best to get vaccinated early so you are protected before the virus starts to spread. Full vaccine immunity develops about 2 weeks after vaccination and lasts for at least 6 months. Because flu protection wears off over time, and because the virus is constantly changing, it’s important to get vaccinated each year.
To find out how and where to get vaccinated, click the Flu Vaccination Program link on the Government of Quebec’s Portail santé mieux-être (for Quebec's residents), or view our store locator to find a pharmacy where this service is available.
Many pharmacies provide safe and effective flu shot services administered by a nurse or your pharmacist upon appointment.
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.