What do you need to know about the flu?
The flu is very common, even in perfectly healthy people. It is caused by a virus, and is very contagious and often spreads to others by droplets when you sneeze or cough. Usual symptoms include sore throat, cough, sneezing, runny or blocked nose and fever.
The flu can lead to serious complications, which can sometimes be life-threatening, especially in certain individuals. These complications include pneumonia (an infection of the lung tissue), meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain) and sinus infections. For those who already have chronic medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease, contracting the flu can worsen those conditions, adding to the risk of other medical issues.
Everyone of every age is vulnerable to the flu, but special attention needs to be paid to those who have the highest risk of complications developing. These include:
⁃ Very young children
⁃ People aged 65 and above
⁃ People with other medical conditions
⁃ People with lowered immunity due to medications or illness
Complications can be fatal, and more than 80% of flu-related deaths are in people aged 65 and above, making it even more important to prevent flu in our ageing population.
How do I prevent flu?
Staying fit and healthy is a key to preventing not only the flu, but other conditions. Making sure you get the right nutrition, drink plenty of water and have enough good quality rest will keep your body in top condition, and your immune system ready to protect against viruses.
Vaccinations are the best way to actively prevent the flu. These change every year, depending on the type of virus common to that season. Generally, flu vaccinations are approved for ages 3 onwards, though there are vaccinations available for younger children.
Supplements that are commonly believed to help prevent the flu include vitamin C and echinacea. In some studies, these have been shown to lessen the severity of the symptoms, and shorten the duration of flu. While vitamin C is a vital part of your everyday requirements, extra supplementation is generally not required if you are keeping a well balanced diet. Always consult with your family doctor before taking supplements or herbal remedies. They may sometimes contain ingredients unsuitable for pre-existing medical conditions, and can also interact with prescribed medication.
I have so many questions about the flu vaccination!
Here are some common questions we have been asked about the flu shot:
1. Will I be fully protected from the flu?
You will be protected against the types of viruses in the vaccination. These can be the three most common (or trivalent), or four most common (or quadrivalent) flu strains. There are other virus strains which are less common, which are not covered in the vaccination. However, the flu shot will prevent the most common types, which will usually also be the most common cause of complications.
2. How does a vaccination work?
Common strains of flu virus are grown, usually using chicken eggs. The viruses are then killed, and form the vaccination you receive.
Your body responds to the killed virus particles, causing antibodies to be formed. These antibodies are triggered again when you come into contact with the same virus type, and cause your immune system to respond and protect you against effects of the virus.
3. Why do I need to get the vaccination every year?
Viruses can mutate, or change, their subtype. This means that the virus of last season may be different next season. It's important to get the annual flu vaccination to stay protected against newer strains of flu virus.
4. Who should NOT get the flu shot?
You should talk to your doctor about whether you are suitable for the flu shot if:
⁃ You have an allergy to eggs
⁃ You have had an allergy or side effect with previous flu vaccinations
⁃ You have a child below the age of 3 who will be receiving the shot
5. Is it safe for a pregnant woman to get the flu shot?
Yes! Not only is it safe, but it is recommended that pregnant mums-to-be should get vaccinated to prevent complications which could also affect her pregnancy, and wellbeing of her child.
6. If I get the flu shot when I'm sick, will that help me recover faster?
No, it will not affect recovery of your current flu.
You should wait till full recovery before getting the flu shot, to maximise the benefit of the flu shot.
7. Will I get sick right after getting the flu shot?
The vaccination is made using killed virus particles. You will not contract the flu by getting the vaccination. Some people may experience mild fever and muscle aches similar to coming down with the flu. This is the immune system responding to the vaccination, and is not the flu. This usually settles down within a few days, and paracetamol can help with any fever or muscle aches.
8. Is the flu vaccination compulsory for school children?
No, the flu vaccination is not part of the compulsory vaccination schedule. However, it is strongly recommended.
Here are some useful links about flu and the vaccination. Drop by one of our clinics to ask any questions, or to get vaccinated. All of our clinics have the latest vaccination for 2016/17 available.
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