Protect yourself from flu
The free flu vaccination is important and available to the over 65’s, adults and children over 6 months of age who are at risk because of existing medical conditions, carers, pregnant women, young children aged 2 to 4 years, and children in their first years at school .
How can flu affect you?
A bad bout of flu is much worse than a heavy cold. The most common symptoms of flu are fever, chills, headache, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, and extreme tiredness. The symptoms are usually quite mild, but can be very serious. Healthy people usually recover in two to seven days, but the disease can lead to hospitalisation, disability or even death. As well as making you more vulnerable to flu if you suffer from an existing health condition it can be made worse if you get flu. If you are pregnant the effects of flu can be very serious and lead to complications with your pregnancy.
What causes flu?
Flu is caused by a range of viruses that infect the windpipe and lungs. And because it’s caused by a virus and not bacteria, antibiotics will not work to treat it.
How can you avoid catching flu?
When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they spread the virus in tiny droplets of saliva. These could then be breathed in by other people or picked up by touching surfaces.
You can prevent the spread of the vir us by
· Covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and using a clean tissue that you then put in the bin
· Washing your hands regularly to reduce the risk of picking up the virus
· The best way to avoid catching the flu is to have the free flu jab!
What is the flu vaccination?
The flu vaccination, also known as the flu jab, is an injection given in the arm, or nasal spray for some children, which is manufactured by experts using ingredients that will help stimulate your immune system, so it can recognise and fight off the flu virus if you come into contact with it.
Who should have a flu vaccination?
Free flu vaccinations are available to people of any age who have the below existing medical conditions, because they are particularly vulnerable to flu:
• heart problems
• long-term chest complaints or breathing difficulties including severe asthma, chronic bronchitis, or emphysema
• kidney disease
• lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (such as steroid medication or cancer treatment)
• liver disease
• had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
• a neurological condition, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy or Parkinson’s
• problems with your spleen, such as sickle cell disease, or you have had your spleen removed
• learning disabilities
Vaccination is also routinely offered to a range of people who are generally well, including those aged over 65, pregnant women, carers, people in care homes and frontline health staff.
If you are unsure whether you should have the free flu vaccination, please ask your GP, practice nurse, midwife or speak to your local pharmacist.
What about children and young people?
If you have children who are are over six months of age and have any of the conditions set out above, please take them to your GP Surgery for the flu vaccination. It can be given at the same time as all routine childhood vaccinations. Vaccination can go ahead if your child has a minor illness such as a cold, but may be delayed if they have an illness that causes fever. No babies under six months of age should have the flu vaccination, as it does not work well in the very young. This is why it is also important that pregnant women have the flu vaccination – they will pass on some immunity to their baby to protect them during the early months of their life.
Is there anyone who shouldn’t have the flu vaccination?
Almost everybody can have the flu vaccination, but you should not have it if you have had a serious allergy to the vaccine used, or any of its ingredients, in the past. If you are allergic to eggs or have a condition that weakens your immune system, you may not be able to have certain types of flu vaccine – check with your GP, practice nurse, midwife or pharmacist first. (If you have a fever, the vaccination may be delayed until you are better).
Are there any side-effects?
Your arm may feel a bit sore where you were injected, and some people get a slight temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days afterwards. The flu vaccination does not give you flu. Side-effects in children are uncommon, but may include a runny or blocked nose, headache, general tiredness and some loss of appetite.
Will the flu vaccination protect me completely?
Most people who have the flu vaccination will not get flu. When the vaccine used is well-matched to virus strains, around three-quarters of those who have been vaccinated are likely to be protected. The rest may have some protection that reduces the severity of their symptoms, if they get ill.
I think I’ve already had flu. Do I need a flu vaccination?
Yes. As you won’t know which flu virus has caused your flu, you should still have the vaccination to protect you against the other flu viruses as soon as the illness has gone.
I had the flu vaccination last year. Do I need another one this year?
Yes. The flu vaccine for this winter protects against some strains of flu, which are different from last year.
To find out more about flu visit: www.nhs.uk/conditions/flu/Pages/Introduction.aspx
To get your free flu jab, please contact the practice as soon as possible - we are offering Saturday clinics in addition to those during our normal working week.