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COVID-19 Q&A: Part 11

“With regards to the mask mandate, what are some examples of indoor public places?”
In November, masks were made mandatory for all indoor public places in British Columbia. Examples of indoor public settings includes malls, clothing stores, coffee shops, grocery stores, places of worship, libraries, drug stores, liquor stores, community and recreation centres, restaurants (when not seated or when not eating), sports/fitness facilities (when not working out), on public transportation (buses, taxis, etcetera.), as well as in common areas of office buildings, hospitals, hotels, post-secondary institutions, and courthouses. If you work in an office setting, you are not required to wear a mask when sitting at your desk as long as you are able to maintain a 6-feet distance. If you are going to be walking around your office or in a shared space (such as a lunchroom/breakroom, hallway, etc.), then you need to be wearing a mask. It’s also strongly recommended that masks be worn in common areas of apartment buildings and condos, such as elevators and laundry rooms.

“Are certain people exempt from wearing face masks?”
In some cases, individuals are exempt from wearing masks. This exemption applies to individuals with certain health conditions or other physical, cognitive or mental impairments, individuals who are unable to put on or take off a mask on their own, as well as children under the age of 12.

“Am I allowed to travel with the current restrictions in place?”
While there is no ban on travel, British Columbians are urged to avoid all non-essential travel at this time in effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19. While the holiday season is a time when travel is at its busiest, this is something we need to avoid right now. That being said, depending on your circumstances, you may need to travel for certain things such as medical appointments or hospital visits, or may need to do work-related travel within your region. These types of things are considered essential, and travel for these reasons is acceptable.

“What do I do if I’ve been exposed to COVID-19?”
If you are a contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19, public health will contact you (this is what’s known as contact tracing.) If you’ve yet to be contacted by public health but think you have been exposed to COVID-19, or if you have been around someone who tested positive for the virus or is exhibiting symptoms, then you should take immediate precautions and self-isolate while also monitoring yourself for symptoms (such as fever, cough, or a sore throat.) Even if you aren’t exhibiting any symptoms of the virus yourself, it’s possible that you could still be a positive case, which is why isolation is important as this prevents the virus from being spread to others. When you are required to self-isolate, this means that you must stay home (no going to work, school, or any public areas.) If you are in need of groceries, medication or any other items, ask a friend or relative to pick them up for you and leave them in a safe drop-off space outside of your home (avoiding personal contact.) If at any time during your period of isolation you begin to develop symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested for the virus. To find a COVID-19 testing centre in your area, click here.

“Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine right away?”
Currently, the COVID-19 vaccine is available in limited quantity. Therefore, it is being offered to individuals based on priority. The first priority group consists of staff and residents of long-term care facilities, staff of healthcare facilities where COVID-19 patients are being treated (such as emergency departments and ICUs), high-risk individuals living in shelters, Indigenous people in rural or remote communities, and people over the age of 80; while the second priority group, which is expected to roll out in the spring, will go to people under the age of 80, as well as key frontline workers such as all other healthcare providers, first responders, fire fighters, police, grocery store workers, teachers, people working in transportation, etc. Following these priority groups, anyone in British Columbia will then be able to get the vaccine, free of charge, as it becomes available. You can learn more about British Columbia’s vaccine plan here.

“Are there any side effects to the vaccine?”
Any vaccine, just like any medication, has the potential to have some side effects – although in most cases, the side effects that those who have received the vaccine has been said to be similar to the flu shot – such as pain at the site of the injection, headache, mild to moderate fatigue, and in some cases chills. As the COVID vaccine is new, its risk of side effects or potential adverse reactions is always being closely monitored.

“Until I get the vaccine, how can I prevent COVID-19?”
While a vaccine is available, until more British Columbians are vaccinated it’s important that we continue to follow the same precautions we’ve taken since the start of the pandemic. This means avoiding social contact, keeping 6 feet apart from others when out, wearing a face mask, and washing our hands regularly (or using hand sanitizer if soap and water isn’t available.) It’s also important that we continue to follow all public health orders and recommendations, which are kept up-to-date here.

Jaw Pain

Considering the fact that there are many different things that can cause jaw pain, it’s not surprising that many people suffer from it. In many cases, the most common reason why someone might suffer from jaw pain is due to a condition known as TMD (Temporal Mandibular Joint Disorder) – the name that is given to several jaw-related problems associated with movement and pain located in or around the joints of the jaw. These types of jaw-related problems are also sometimes referred to as “TM” or “TMJ.”

As mentioned, TMD or TMJ is a jaw related condition that causes pain. While the pain is often felt in the jaw, it can also cause something known as referred pain – causing it to be felt in other areas of the head or neck, and may even cause things like headaches, neck pain, and even toothaches. As a result, this is a condition that is very commonly seen in the field of dentistry. For example, when a patient goes to their dentist complaining of a toothache, the first thought that will usually come to mind is that they either have a cavity, which would require a filling, or could potentially have a chipped/cracked tooth, which could require root canal treatment. In order to determine the cause of the patient’s toothache, x-rays will be taken and tests performed (such as applying cold to the area that is painful to gauge the reaction from the tooth, as well as tapping on the tooth.) If the problem is with the tooth itself, this will usually be evident on the x-rays. However, in cases where the x-ray shows no signs of a cavity or any other tooth-related concerns, and if the tooth responds normally to the tests that are performed, then it’s not uncommon for the culprit of the pain that the patient is experiencing to be related to the temporal mandibular joint. This is, in most cases, due to something known as bruxism (more commonly known as clenching or grinding of the teeth.) In some cases, the patient may not even be consciously aware that they are grinding their teeth.

As for what causes teeth grinding to occur, there are several different factors that can play a contributing role, though the most commonly seen reason is stress. Stress can play a significant factor in many different aspects of our health, including contribute to jaw pain due to teeth grinding or clenching of the jaw. To prevent this from occurring, it’s important that you’re able to identify what your stress triggers are and find ways to avoid them and/or find different mechanisms so that you are better able to cope with said stress. For some, this may mean meditation, while for others it could mean going for a walk or finding a fun hoppy to occupy their time with. (Aside from stress, other factors that can contribute to jaw pain include being involved in motor vehicle accidents, as well as certain health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, which can affect the muscles and joints – and, in rare cases, even osteoarthritis. It’s also possible to develop jaw pain or “lockjaw” as a result of developing tetanus – a serious bacterial infection that affects the nervous system and can contribute to painful muscle contractions of the jaw and neck along with other symptoms, and can even be life-threatening.)

Because jaw clenching and teeth grinding can eventually cause the teeth to become worn down (which can ultimately lead to problems with the teeth), your dentist will usually suggest you have a nightguard made. This will help to relieve the pressure on the teeth and jaw if you are grinding or clenching. In most cases, it’s recommended that a nightguard be worn when you go to sleep (as clenching and grinding typically occurs the most during sleep hours), but you can also wear it during the daytime or whenever you’re experiencing pain. There are also different jaw exercises you can do to try and relieve pain associated with clenching, such as stretching of the jaw joint, manual jaw-opening exercises, and smile stretching. These types of exercises will help loosen up the muscles and eliminate the pain you’re experiencing. Patients may also find temporary relief from use of NSAIDs like Ibuprofen or Naproxen, or by applying heat to help increase blood flow and relax the jaw muscles.

Managing Stress and Anxiety During COVID-19

Stress and anxiety are two things that most people have experienced in their lives at some point or another. While there are certain things that we can do in effort to prevent them from being daily re-occurrences in our lives, there are also times when the stress and anxiety we live through is often brought on by things we don’t have any control over. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant increase in the number of Canadians that are experiencing a decline in their psychological health – including not just an increase in stress and anxiety, but also an increase in things like drug and alcohol abuse, as well as individuals having thoughts of suicide. According to a recent study conducted by Statistics Canada, as many as half of all Canadians said their mental health had declined since the start of the pandemic. Subsequently, there has also been an increase in the demand for mental health services, such as a spike in the number of calls received to 24-hour crisis lines, appointments made with counsellors and psychologists, as well as referrals to psychiatrists and other mental-health related programs. Naturally, this high demand for these services has led to making it much more challenging for those who do offer them to respond as quickly as they normally would in a non-pandemic world…and while we may not be able to control these wait times or even be able to control the COVID-19 pandemic itself, for that matter, what we can do our best to try and control for now are two things: The way we go about protecting ourselves and our loved ones from this virus (i.e., by following all public health orders and recommendations – such as washing our hands regularly, wearing face masks, keeping that 6-feet distance from others at all times, working from home, and making sure that we stay home when we’re sick), and how we cope with our thoughts surrounding it.

While getting a handle on your thoughts might sound a lot easier said than done to most – particularly to anyone experiencing severe anxiety since the pandemic – it’s important to remember that our thought process plays a significant role in the feelings that we experience. Given the uncertainty of the virus, no one can fault anyone for feeling anxious, overwhelmed, stressed out, nervous, or scared. While we’ve learned a lot about COVID-19 since the virus first made its impact in Canada back on January 25th (11 months ago), there’s still so much we’ve yet to learn. Furthermore, we have also seen a rapid and concerning increase in the number of newly diagnosed cases (as well as deaths) across the country, leaving some to wonder when they or their family members may be hit with the virus next.

All of this uncertainty can lead to immense feelings of fear, stress and anxiousness. If you happen to be feeling any of these things, then it may give you some level of comfort to know that you’re not alone – while, at the same time, also sadden you even further to know that there are so many others out there who are experiencing the same thing and struggling as much as you may be. On the other hand, some individuals may not even initially realize they’re having a hard time coping, which is why, just as you would all other aspects of your health (for example, if you happened to develop diabetes or suffered a broken bone, then you would do what you needed to do to treat those things), it’s also important for you to be as in-tune with your mental health. If you’re feeling happy, allow yourself to feel happy. If you’re feeling sad, upset, angry or confused, then it’s also important that you allow yourself to feel those emotions, too, and don’t try to compartmentalize them. To compartmentalize your emotions is when you subconsciously (although sometimes it can also be done on a conscious level) put up psychological defense mechanisms in order to avoid things like cognitive dissonance, mental discomfort, and anxiety.

All of that being said, there is one simple task you can to do get better in-tune with your mental health – and that’s practicing self-care. Self-care is defined as a deliberately chosen activity (usually multiple) to help take care of not just your mental and emotional health, but your physical health too. Examples of self-care include things having a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and developing a regular sleep/wake routine – to things that are more creative, like drawing or painting, expressing your thoughts by writing in a journal, as well as meditating. Whatever you choose to do, when you finally do start to get into routine you should also start to notice yourself feeling calmer. That’s not to say that you still won’t experience some level of worry when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, but by practicing self-care you help shift your focus – and, rather than spending the time worrying over things you can’t control, you’re spending more time focused on yourself and your own wellbeing, which is important. Because much of the news we receive on COVID-19 comes from the news, it’s also a good idea to take breaks. While it’s important to get information, sometimes there can be information overload which can leave you feeling overwhelmed. In times where you find yourself feeling anxious or in a panic, then you may also find deep-breathing exercises to be beneficial – and you can find some helpful techniques by clicking here.

If you continue to struggle, you can find a list of helpful resources via your local Canadian Mental Health Association chapter – including everything from a list of national programs, brochures on different mental health disorders, quizzes, and more by visiting www.CMHA.ca. If you’re having thoughts of suicide, it’s crucial that you seek immediate medical attention.

British Columbia’s COVID-19 Vaccine Plan

This week, healthcare workers and residents in long-term care in the United Kingdom were among the first in the world to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Today, Health Canada announced its approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use in our country, with an expected 249,000 doses of the vaccine to be made available by the end of December, marking the launch of the largest inoculation campaigns in Canada’s history.

Right here in British Columbia, it was announced that the initial rollout of the vaccine would begin the week of December 14th, with 4,000 doses being administered to those who work in long-term care followed by other healthcare workers in addition to long-term care residents and individuals over the age of 80 who are at high-risk for COVID-19. Naturally, because COVID-19 is not something we’ve ever really seen the likes of before and because this is a new vaccine, Canadians have questions – the first and foremost being whether or not the vaccine is safe, along with its rate of effectiveness.

Is the vaccine safe?

Health Canada has carefully reviewed data related to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and continue to track and review data on this and other vaccines (such as the Moderna vaccine) to ensure that it is safe for Canadians, and are fully confident with the information brought forth – thus resulting in the vaccine’s approval in this country.

That being said, as with any vaccine or medication that is administered, there’s always the chance that one could develop an adverse reaction or side-effects – especially given the fact that it is a new vaccine. In the U.K., for example, two healthcare workers developed adverse reactions after being administered the vaccine. As a result, Britain’s medical regulator advised individuals who have a history of significant allergic reactions to vaccines, medications, or foods to avoid it for the time being until they investigated further. However, Canadian health officials have not changed their recommendations at this time and will continue to monitor this and any other unusual developments associated with the vaccine closely.

How effective is the vaccine?

According to final analysis of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, it was found to be up to 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 infection – and that efficiency was also found to be consistent across age and race demographics.

Is the vaccine approved for everyone?

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have not been approved for women who are pregnant, individuals who are immunocompromised (such as those with cancer), or children under the age of 16. In cases where a child is considered to be at an extremely high-risk for contracting COVID-19 with serious health outcomes as a result, or in cases where children have severe neuro-disabilities, then rare special allowance may be a possibility.

Once vaccinated, do masks still need to be worn?

Yes. As we don’t yet know exactly how the vaccine will work, we all need to ensure that we don’t become lax with news of the vaccine and instead make sure that we continue to use all of the layers of protection that we have come to know work in preventing the spread of COVID-19, such as washing our hands regularly, staying six feet apart from others, staying home when we’re sick, and, of course, wearing face masks in all indoor public places.

How many doses of the vaccine are required?

When it comes to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, 2 doses will be required in order for its full effectiveness to be achieved. Following the first dose of the vaccine, the second will be administered approximately 3 weeks (21 days) later.

Click here to learn more about B.C.’s COVID-19 immunization plan.

Food and the Brain

In order to stay as healthy as we can, we need to ensure that we’re always making healthy choices and be conscious of how we treat our bodies from both a mental and physical standpoint. This can mean doing things like getting regular exercise, getting adequate amounts of sleep each night, avoiding bad habits (such as smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol in excess), as well as having a diet that is rich in essential nutrients – including vitamins and minerals, proteins, healthy carbohydrates and fats, and water.

Eating well is fundamental for our overall health and wellbeing, as the healthier foods we eat, the less likely we are to develop serious health problems – including diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and even certain types of cancer. When we don’t eat healthy, there can be significant changes. For example, you might start to gain weight or find yourself feeling more fatigued and lacking the same level of energy you once had. Through making healthy meal choices, these are things that can be prevented.

Foods can also have a significant impact on your mood. This is because 90% of your serotonin receptors (which not only influence just your appetite but also influence other biological and neurological processes including memory, anxiety, cognition, and learning, just to name a few) are found in the gastrointestinal tract, and there is two-way communication that occurs via the gut and the brain via the vagus nerve, which is responsible for various internal organ functions, including digestion, as well as vasomotor activity. Our brains are also always on, which means they constantly require fuel, which we get from the foods that we eat. If you’ve ever heard the famous saying, “You are what you eat,” this is actually true, as the foods you put into your body affects the structure of your brain and the way it functions. If you’re constantly eating foods that are high in unhealthy fats or high in sugar, your brain is going to begin to feel deprived of those essential healthy nutrients that I mentioned before.

While you may not initially be aware that some of the foods you’re eating are playing a role in your mental wellbeing, it’s important to start paying close attention to determine how the different foods you eat make you feel. One day to do this is by giving your diet a do-over, so to speak, by cutting out things like sugar and processed foods from your diet – also known as an elimination diet – and then slowly start to reintroduce different foods, one by one, and see how you feel. If a certain food you’ve reintroduced makes you feel unhealthy in any way, eliminate that food again – and while it’s okay to indulge in a treat every now and then, it’s important to be mindful and not over-indulge, as this is where trouble begins. It’s also important to be aware of what foods are good for your mental health, vs. which foods are bad and should be avoided, as outlined below.

Best:
• Berries
• Bananas
• Walnuts
• Whole grains
• Yogurt
• Salmon
• Leafy Greens
• Sweet potatoes
• Green tea

Worst:
• Refined white starches (rice, bread, crackers)
• High caffeine intake
• Fried foods
• Fast food
• Processed meats

Common Causes of an Upset Stomach

An upset stomach isn’t an uncommon occurrence. It happens, or has happened, to most of us. The severity of an upset stomach can range from mild to severe, be acute or chronic, come on suddenly, worsen over time, be short-lasting or long-lasting. There are also many reasons why an upset stomach can occur, which can range from non-severe to life-threatening. The most common reason why someone may develop an upset stomach, however, is due to the foods they eat – particularly if they are not fully cooked, contaminated with bacteria such as salmonella or E. coli, a type of food you’re not used to eating, or a type of food that is known to cause stomach upset.

Food Poisoning

When it comes to bacteria-contaminated foods that cause stomach upset, this is known as food poisoning, which can occur as a result of certain foods – such as meats – not being cooked thoroughly, being improperly stored, leaving foods at room temperature for prolonged periods of time, or eating food that has expired. In addition to meats, foods that are susceptible to becoming contaminated with bacteria include poultry, eggs, raw shellfish, unpasteurized milk, and ready-to-eat foods such as deli meats or sandwiches.

To prevent food poisoning, remember the four C’s of food hygiene:

Cleaning (certain foods may need to be washed or rinsed thoroughly with water before cooking tor consumption)
Cooking (ensure all foods are cooked thoroughly before you eat them, and if you are going to reheat foods then it should be done at a temperature of at least 75°C)
Chilling (some foods are required to be stored in a refrigerator for preservation/to prevent spoilage, as well as to prevent the growth of bacteria)
Cross-contamination (keep raw/uncooked foods separate from foods that are cooked to avoid cross-contamination)

If you develop food poisoning, its symptoms can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days – including nausea, upset stomach and/or stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. These symptoms, while unpleasant, will usually go away on their own, but may be relieved with over-the-counter nausea medication. If your symptoms worsen (i.e., you develop a high fever or have frequent vomiting), signs of hydration, diarrhea lasting longer than 3 days, or notice blood in your stools, then it’s important you see a doctor.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS is a condition that affects an estimated 5 million Canadians, with an estimated 120,000 being diagnosed with it every year, therefore making it one of the most common disorders to affect the digestive system. While IBS can affect anyone at any age, most of those diagnosed with it tend to be under the age of 50. It also affects people differently depending on symptoms and severity.

The most common symptoms associated with IBS include abdominal pain and cramping, upset stomach, diarrhea or constipation, changes in bowel movement habits, gas/bloating, intolerance to certain foods, and it can also have an impact on one’s menta health – leading to things like anxiety or depression, as well as causing one to have difficult falling asleep. Because IBS can have an impact on your quality of life, it’s important to speak with your doctor if you have any of the aforementioned symptoms. He or she will be able to provide you with better guidance on how to manage those symptoms, as well as likely refer you to a gastroenterologist.

As for what causes IBS to develop, there are several contributing factors. It can come on after a bout of gastroenteritis due to a virus or bacteria, bacteria overgrowth, and even those who are stressed find they have symptoms of IBS. Certain foods such as fried and fatty goods, foods filled with fibre, as well as chocolate, alcohol, carbonated beverages, and foods that contain fructose or sorbitol are all known to trigger IBS attacks, and these are things you should try to avoid.

Appendicitis

This is another common condition that can develop and lead to upset stomach or stomach pain. It occurs when the lining of the appendix becomes blocked, resulting in the rapid multiplication of bacteria, and ultimately leads to the appendix becoming swollen, infected, and pus-filled.

Along with stomach-related symptoms, appendicitis can also cause things such as nausea and/or vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, loss of appetite, and high fever. If left untreated, appendicitis can result in the appendix bursting, causing bacteria to spill out into the abdominal cavity and lead to inflammation of the abdominal cavity (also known as peritonitis), which can not only cause one to have serious health problems, but could also be fatal.

The most common method of treating appendicitis is through a surgical procedure known as an appendectomy, in which the appendix is removed.

Stay Hydrated to Stay Healthy

Water isn’t just something you drink to quench your thirst – it has many more benefits than that. Drinking water also keeps us healthy in many ways people may not even realize, which is why it’s important to drink at least 8 glasses a day (and have a water-filled bottle on hand with you if you are out, at school, or at work.)

1. It’s good for the digestive system.
When you don’t drink enough water, you can develop digestion problems – including an increase in stomach acid, which can ultimately increase your risk of developing things like stomach ulcers and heartburn, as well as constipation. In order for the bowels to work as they should and for digestive problems to be prevented or less problematic, it’s important to drink water.

2. It’s good for our kidneys.
Water is what helps our kidneys remove waste from our blood through urine, as well as helps blood travel to and deliver essential nutrients to our kidneys. When you don’t drink enough water and become dehydrated, it’s much more difficult for the kidneys to go through this process. Essentially, our kidneys are what regulate fluid in the body. When you don’t drink enough water, you can develop a wide range of problems including urinary tract infections, as well as kidney problems, including kidney stones, which can lead to kidney damage if not treated properly.

3. It can help prevent hangovers.
While one should never drink alcohol in excess, it’s not uncommon to experience hangovers after consuming alcohol – which can include symptoms such as headaches, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, dizziness or light-headedness, shakiness, or thirst. These symptoms can develop after consuming alcohol because, when you drink it, the body will eventually start to lack fluid and you will pass less urine as a result, leading to lack of electrolytes in the body and dehydration. By drinking water, you can help increase the body’s hydration and reduce the symptoms of a hangover.

4. It’s good for the skin.
If you happen to have dry skin, one of the reasons why could be due to lack of water. This is because when the skin doesn’t get enough water, it starts to lose its elasticity and will start to look and feel parched. By drinking just two cups of water each and every day, you can increase the skin’s blood flow and you should start to notice an improvement in the skin’s appearance. When your skin is dehydrated, it is more prone to developing problems – including, as mentioned, dryness, in addition to fine lines, wrinkles, skin sagginess, and acne.

5. It helps regulate body temperature.
When we are exposed to warm environments or become warm as a result of exercise or illness, such fever caused by the flu, we sweat. Sweating is the way in which the body will try to cool itself down and prevent itself from overheating. To assist in regulating our body temperature, drinking water is important as it also has the ability to expel excess heat from the body. This is why it’s important to drink water before and after working out, as well as when you are ill.

6. It aids weight loss.
If you’re looking to lose weight, two things are important: What you eat, and how much exercise you get. Combined, getting regular exercise and having a diet can help you lose a significant amount of weight. However, drinking plenty of water before, during and after meals can help create that feeling of fullness and reduce your want to snack in-between meals, which can also help assist in weight loss.

Flu Vaccine Q&A

This year has seen high demand for the flu vaccine across Canada and other parts of the world. Below are some of the most common questions and answers related to influenza and the vaccine, including who should get it, how it protects you, and some potential side effects that one might experience as a result.

“Who’s most at risk of developing the flu?”
The flu can affect anyone, although those who are at the highest risk of developing influenza (and potential complications) include individuals who are immunocompromised, young children, and seniors. Those who are younger (children) or older (seniors) tend to have weaker immune systems. As we grow from children into adulthood, our immune systems become stronger. However, as we age, our immune systems will also eventually weaken. As a result, it can be much more difficult for the body to fight off viruses like the flu. Individuals with certain chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes, or women who are pregnant are also at an increased risk of developing the flu.

“What are some of the complications that can occur as a result of the flu?”
While most people who develop the flu will recover by 2 weeks, there are some who may have a longer recovery period, and others who might develop complications as a result of the flu. Some of the most common complications that can occur as a result of the flu include sinus and ear infections, which would require antibiotic treatment; while more severe complications can also develop (and be potentially deadly), such as pneumonia, inflammation of the heart, brain or tissues of the muscle, organ failure, and sepsis. Individuals with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, may notice a worsening of this condition (i.e. increased asthma attacks) when they have the flu.

“I’ve never had a flu shot before. Should I get one?”
It is up to you whether or not you get the flu vaccine, but it is currently recommended for anyone aged 6 months or older. (Children under the age of 9 years of age who have never had a flu vaccine before will need 2 doses of the vaccine.) The flu vaccine is especially important for individuals who are in the high-risk category (such as young children, seniors, women who are pregnant, those who have underlying medical conditions, as well as those who provide essential services such as doctors, nurses, paramedics, police, firefighters, etc.) In British Columbia, the flu vaccine is free to anyone who falls under any of these categories. If you’re unsure as to whether or not you’re a candidate for the flu vaccine, you can have a discussion with your local pharmacy or physician’s office.

“How will the flu vaccine help me?”
In addition to decreasing your risk of developing the flu as well as serious illness due to the flu, you also help protect others when you are vaccinated. That being said, the vaccine is not 100% effective in preventing the flu and may not provide total protection – meaning it’s still possible to develop the flu even if you’ve been vaccinated.

“Are there any side effects from the flu vaccine?”
In most cases, the side effects that someone experiences from a vaccine are typically quite mild – or all together non-existent. The most common side effects that one can expect to experience following a flu vaccine is redness, swelling or soreness at the side of the injection – which can be reduced by applying ice to the affected area, or by taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen.

To learn more about the flu vaccine, visit ImmunizeBC.ca.

British Columbia’s Current Province-Wide Orders

On Thursday, November 19th, British Columbia’s health officials – Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer, alongside Adrian Dix, Minister of Health – announced new (and extended) orders in effort to curb the COVID-19 pandemic in our province. It was a lot of information to take it at once, nonetheless, so below we break down what some of these orders mean for British Columbians.

PROVINCE-WIDE RESTRICTIONS

Prior to Thursday’s announcements, many of the restrictions were limited to the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions where they were asked to significantly reduce their social interactions as well as travel. However, these restrictions are now Province-wide and will remain in effect until midnight on December 7th (with the possibility of being extended.)

SOCIAL RESTRICTIONS

It is ordered that British Columbians cannot have social gatherings of any size with anyone other than those already in their immediate household. This means that you should not invite any friends or extended family to your household – including hosting outdoor gatherings, meeting friends for coffee, as well as not having playdates for children. If you live alone, your core bubble can consist of no more than two people. They must be the same two people every time and should be people that you already regularly interacted with in-person prior to the pandemic.

WORKPLACES

Employers must ensure their workplaces review and keep up-to-date their COVID-19 Safety Plan. All employers must post their Safety Plan in the office, as well as post a copy of it on their website (if a website is available.) Employers must also ensure that all of their employees are conducting daily health checks before going to the office. If an employee has any symptoms of COVID-19, whether it’s cough, sore throat, or runny nose, they must stay home no matter how mild those symptoms. Physical distancing must be maintained in offices at all times, in all spaces.

Employers must also make working from home a possibility for their employees. Where there are employees already working from home, employers must immediately suspend their efforts to have those employees return to the office and allow their remote work to continue until at least the new year. “This will be reviewed early in January,” tweeted Health Minister Adrian Dix.

WorkSafe BC will also be increasing their inspections of workplaces. Any workplace found to be non-compliant of any of the orders set forth could be subjected to fines or ordered to close.

TRAVEL

All non-essential travel is to be avoided. This includes travel to and from regions within B.C., as well as travel in and out of the province. This means that you should not travel to go on vacation anywhere, nor should you travel to visit any friends or family outside of your immediate household. For example, as Dr. Bonnie Henry stated during her briefing, if you live in Victoria you should not be going to Tofino – and if you live in Vancouver, you should not be going to Whistler. As for what counts as travel that is considered essential, this would include regular travel for work (as long as it is within your region), as well as if you need to travel to and from medical appointments or if you have to go to the hospital. This type of essential travel is allowed.

FACE MASKS

Masks are now mandatory for everyone in all public indoor settings and workplaces (except for those who are exempt for medical reasons (including psychological), or are under the age of 12.) Examples of indoor public settings where masks are mandatory include malls/shopping centres, grocery stores, coffee shops, libraries, drug stores, clothing stores, liquor stores, community centres, recreation centres, restaurants and bars, and anywhere that is deemed a public place.

When it comes to wearing masks in workplaces, all employers must enforce the mandatory mask policy with both their employees as well as their customers. If you are sitting at your desk and are not next to anyone else, you do not have to wear a mask. However, when away from your desk and around others (for example, in hallways, stairways, breakrooms, elevators, or dealing with customers at a front counter), you are expected to wear a mask.

Remember, it’s important that everyone do their part and follow these orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Click here for a complete list of the Province-wide restrictions and orders issued by the PHO.

Lung Cancer Awareness

By the end of this year, an estimated 29,000 Canadians and 228,000 Americans will have been diagnosed with lung cancer. Lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancer that affects North Americans (followed by breast cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer, and stomach cancer), and is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths – killing an estimated 1.76 million people worldwide each year. The average age of individuals diagnosed with lung cancer is between 65 and 70, while there is also a small number of younger people (under the age of 45) who are diagnosed.

Types of Lung Cancer

There are two main types of lung cancer:

• Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
• Small cell lung cancer (SCLC)

There are also several different subtypes of Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that one can be diagnosed with, including:

• Adenocarcinoma
• Squamous cell carcinoma
• Large cell (undifferentiated) carcinoma
• Adenosquamous carcinoma
• Sarcomatoid carcinoma

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) accounts for as many as 85% of all lung cancers, while up to 15% of lung cancers are small cell lung cancers (SCLC).

Risk Factors

Aside from age, there are other risk factors that can increase someone’s chances of developing lung cancer, including:

• Tobacco or cigar smoking
• Exposure to second-hand smoke
• Exposure to asbestos
• Exposure to radon
• Air pollution
• Personal/family history of lung cancer

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

• A persistent or worsening cough (lasting longer than 2 or 3 weeks)
• Coughing up blood
• Recurring chest infections
• Pain when breathing or coughing
• Persisting fatigue/decreased energy
• Loss of appetite
• Unexplained weight loss

Early Detection

When it comes to any type of cancer, early detection is key, as that can increase your chances of successful treatment. Screening for lung cancer is important as its symptoms typically do not appear until it is already in an advanced stage (and may have spread to other parts of the body.) Screening is recommended for individuals between the ages of 55-74 and are at high risk (for example, if there is a family history of lung cancer or if you are or were a smoker.)