The flu is a viral respiratory infection caused by the influenza virus. Flu season strikes from October to April. Most people will recover from the flu within a week or 10 days. But for adults aged 65 and older, and adults and children with chronic conditions like diabetes and cancer, there is a greater risk of developing more severe complications that can be life threatening.

On this page:

  1. Flu symptoms
  2. Recovery
  3. Prevention
  4. The flu shot
  5. Pandemic planning

Flu symptoms

Know what to look for. Educate yourself on the symptoms of the flu:

  • headache
  • chills
  • burning sensation in your chest
  • cough

Followed by:

  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • muscle aches, especially in your back and legs
  • fatigue
  • runny nose, often including yellow, green or brown discharge
  • sneezing
  • watery eyes
  • throat irritation
  • nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, especially in children


If you do get the flu, you can help speed along your recovery by following these tips:

  • avoid exerting yourself
    • set aside work, your fitness routine and any stress that comes along while you're recovering
    • you can get back to your daily activities one to two days after your temperature returns to normal
  • drink plenty of fluids
    • drink six to eight glasses a day
    • try drinking hot fluids to help with nasal and chest congestion
  • humidify the air using a vaporizer (either cool mist or hot mist). This will help relive a sore throat and dry cough
  • get lots of rest
    • fatigue can increase the duration of symptoms
    • staying in bed will also avoid spreading the infection to others
  • use saline drops or spray to loosen nasal congestion and petrolatum jelly products to soothe raw skin around your nose
  • use non-medicated throat lozenges to sooth a sore throat or cough
  • gargle with salt water to relieve a dry throat
  • take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to fight a fever


The best way you can prevent getting the flu is by practicing these tips:

  • eat a balanced diet
  • get a good night's sleep
  • exercise regularly
  • wash your hands often, for at least 20 seconds, using soap and warm water
  • avoid coughing or sneezing into your hand
    • use your elbow, sleeve or a tissue
    • if you are sneezing or coughing, get rid of the used tissue immediately
  • avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose
  • clean hard surfaced with a disinfectant, the flu virus can survive on surfaces for eight to 48 hours
  • use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, only if soap and warm water aren't available
  • stay home if you're sick

The flu shot

The flu shot is more than 80 percent effective in preventing the flu in healthy adults. Never had the flu shot before? Check out these facts:

  • it takes about two weeks for a flu shot's protection to kick in
  • side effects from getting the flu shot, other than slight arm pain, are extremely rare
  • immunity from a flu shot lasts less than one year so it is important to get the flu shot annually
  • it's best to get the flu shot early in the full season (October or November), but getting it later is better than not getting it at all

For more information on influenza, as well as a schedule of upcoming flu-shot clinics in Kitchener, visit the Region of Waterloo Public Health website.

Get more information about the flu shot from the Province of Ontario.

Pandemic planning

If there is an influenza pandemic, a widespread outbreak of a dangerous infectious disease, the Region of Waterloo Public Health will coordinate a response for public safety.

We have also developed a plan for dealing with the effects an outbreak could have on our community and city services. The plan is a step-by-step guide for our city staff and elected officials to follow. Kitchener's pandemic plan includes strategies such as:

  • educate and practice good hygiene and hand washing
  • restrict workplace entry of people with influenza symptoms
  • increase physical distancing (e.g. working from home, avoid face-to-face contact)
  • work from home 

The best way to prevent a widespread outbreak from happening is to practice healthy habits. For more information, please contact us.