Our thoughts at this time of year turn to Christmas festivities and cosy nights. But along with the short days and cold nights comes the formidable flu.
What is Flu?
Flu is a highly contagious illness that can infect the nose, throat, and even the lungs. A person can spread the infection through germs from coughs and sneezes. While most of us will recover from the illness within a week or so, the flu has the potential to be fatal for more vulnerable people within our society.
What are the Symptoms?
- Dry cough
- Sudden high fever
- Sore throat
- Aching body
- Stuffy and runny nose
How does the Flu Vaccine Work?
The flu vaccine stimulates your body’s immune system to make antibodies to attack the flu virus. Antibodies are a form of protein that fight off viruses. If you’ve had the flu vaccine, as soon as your immune system is exposed to the virus, it will produce antibodies to fight it off.
After you’ve had the flu vaccine, it may take up to 2 weeks for full immunity to build up. From then on, you need to have the vaccination annually as the antibodies that protect from the virus decline over time.
Who can get the Flu Vaccine?
You will be provided with an annual flu vaccine on the NHS if you fall into one of the categories below:
- Anyone aged 65+
- Pregnant women
- Children and adults with an underlying health condition (such as asthma or diabetes)
- Children and adults with weakened immune systems
Serious complications of the flu are more likely to develop within these risk groups.
It was reported last week that an asthmatic gentleman from Dorset, Mr Mutch, had to be placed into an induced coma for 3 months after declining the flu vaccine. When Mr Mutch contracted the flu, his body struggled to fight the infection due to his asthma. Whilst Mr Mutch is now recovering, he has stressed that he wants to encourage others to take flu vaccines seriously.
Many at Risk
England’s top doctors are saying that hundreds of thousands of people could have their Christmas ruined by flu this year. In the week ending 8 December 2019, GP consultations for flu-like illness were up by a quarter to nearly 7,500 visits.
Following delays in delivery of the nasal flu vaccine, coverage among 2-3-year olds is falling behind previous seasons. Public Health England and the NHS are urging parents of at-risk children to contact their GP to get their vaccine this side of Christmas to help stop the virus spreading.
How can you Protect yourself from the Flu?
- The best thing you can do to protect yourself from the flu is to get the vaccine.
- Practice good health habits, such as washing your hands.
- Maintain your immune system by having a healthy diet and exercising frequently.
- Quit smoking.
Please look after yourselves this holiday season! And if you do fall into one of the risk groups, it is not too late to get the vaccine. Most pharmacies and health services offer vaccines until March each year.