As it starts to colder and we edge closer to winter, it’s time to remember to get your flu jab. Flu is a highly infectious illness that spreads rapidly through the coughs and sneezes of people who are carrying the virus. A bout of flu is much more serious and can be much worse than a heavy cold. Symptoms of flu include fever, chills, extreme tiredness, headaches, aches and pains in the joints and muscles.
Evidence from Australia and New Zealand, where they have had their winters, suggests that we are highly likely to have a heavy flu season. Like us, bugs can travel great distance in a short space of time so the NHS uses this intelligence to help us plan.
This could put extra pressure on our health services as we head into the busiest period of the year. Healthy people normally return to normal within two to seven days and will not be treated by your doctor. I’ve seen patients in A&E and in my practice with flu – this is the last place they should be, there is no medication we can give and it just serves to spread the virus to other people. Most importantly, you need to protect yourself and the people you look after from being very ill from flu. I’ve already had my flu jab.
Anyone can get flu, but it can be more serious for certain people, such as:
- people aged 65 or over
- Aged 6 to 65 year olds who have a long-term medical condition; such as diabetes, asthma, heart, liver or kidney disease, weakened immune system and chronic neurological disorder
- pregnant women
That’s why the flu jab is FREE if you’re in one of these groups.
Another vulnerable group are our children. Flu can be very unpleasant illness for children, with potential serious complications and we all know how quickly germs spread amongst our kids at school. The flu vaccine for children is a nasal spray and is available on the NHS for 2 and 3 year olds plus those in reception class and school years one to four. This is being given this Autumn by nurses in school and at GP practices.
A flu vaccine is needed every year for two reasons. Firstly, the body’s immune response from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection. Secondly, flu viruses constantly change, therefore the flu vaccine is reviewed each year and potentially updated.
If you are not in one of the ‘at risk’ groups you can pay to have the flu jab for between £10 and £15 at one of the many pharmacies across Rotherham.