Fever, chills, headache, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, and extreme tiredness- these are the common symptoms of flu. It can be unpleasant, but if you are otherwise healthy, it’ll usually clear-up within two to seven days, but for some the disease likely lead up to serious complications of flu, such as pneumonia (a lung infection), hospitalisation, permanent disability or even death.
It’s especially important that people at increased risk including those aged 65 or over, pregnant women and anyone with health conditions have their vaccination every year to protect them.
If you have any concern about flu, speak to us. Our clinician and consultants will happily assist.
What is flu? Isn’t it just a heavy cold?
Flu occurs every year, usually in the winter, which is why it’s sometimes called seasonal flu. It’s a highly infectious disease with symptoms that come on very quickly. Colds are much less serious and usually start gradually with a stuffy or runny nose and a sore throat. A bad bout of flu can be much worse than a heavy cold.
How do you catch flu?
When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they spread the flu virus in tiny droplets of saliva over a wide area. These droplets can then be breathed in by other people or they can be picked up by touching surfaces where the droplets have landed. You can prevent the spread of the virus by covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and you can wash your hands frequently or use hand gels to reduce the risk of picking up the virus.
But the best way to avoid catching and spreading flu is by having the vaccination before the flu season starts.
How do we protect against flu?
Flu is unpredictable. The vaccine provides the best protection available against a virus that can cause severe illness. The most likely viruses that will cause flu are identified in advance of the flu season and vaccines are then made to match them as closely as possible.
The vaccines are given in the autumn ideally before flu starts circulating. During the last ten years the vaccine has generally been a good match for the circulating strains.
Am I at increased risk from the effects of flu?
Flu can affect anyone but if you have a long-term health condition the effects of flu can make it worse even if the condition is well managed and you normally feel well. You should have the flu vaccine if you are:
or have a long term condition such as:
- a heart problem
- a chest complaint or breathing difficulties, including bronchitis,
- emphysema or severe asthma
- a 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, e.g. multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy or learning disability
- a problem with your spleen, e.g. sickle cell disease, or you have
- had your spleen removed
- are seriously overweight (BMI of 40 and above)
This list of conditions isn’t definitive. It’s always an issue of clinical judgement. Your GP here can assess you to take into account the risk of flu making any underlying illness you may have worse, as well as your risk of serious illness from flu itself.
Who should consider having a flu vaccination?
All those who have any condition listed above, or who are:
- aged 65 years or over
- living in a residential or nursing home
- the main carer of an older or disabled person
- a household contact of an immune-compromised person
- a frontline health or social care worker
- children of a certain age
How effective is the flu vaccine?
Studies have shown the flu vaccine can help prevent you getting the flu. It will not stop all flu viruses and the level of protection may vary, so it’s not 100% guarantee that you will be flu-free.
However, if you do get flu after vaccination, it’s likely to be milder and shorter lived than it would otherwise have been.
There’s also evidence to suggest that flu vaccine can reduce the risk of having a stroke.
Over time, protection from the injected flu vaccine gradually decreases and flu strains often change. New flu vaccines are produced each year, which is why people advised to have flu vaccine need it annually.
What do I need to do now?
If you belong to one of the groups mentioned in this article, it’s important that you have your flu vaccination.
Speak to us, to book a vaccination appointment and get the best possible protection.
Organisations wishing to protect their employees against flu, can also contact us to make necessary arrangements for the vaccinations to be given through their occupational health departments.
If you are a frontline health or social care worker, find out what arrangements have been made at your workplace for providing flu vaccination. It’s important that you get protected.
Summary of those who are recommended to have the flu vaccine
Whilst we have taken reasonable care to ensure that any factual information is accurate and complete, most of the information in this guide is based on our views and opinions, and guidance from NHS. As a result, we cannot make any promises about the accuracy or the completeness of the information and we don’t accept any responsibility for the results of your reliance on it. Please exercise your common sense when considering this guide and whether to take any of the steps that may be suggested in it.