Protect yourself from flu
This article explains how you can help protect yourself and your children against flu this coming winter, and why it’s very important that people who are at increased risk from flu have their free flu vaccination every year.
What is ‘Flu?
- Influenza or flu is a respiratory illness associated with infection by influenza virus.
- It is infectious and common and spread by coughs and sneezes.
- It's not the same as the common cold. Flu is caused by a different group of viruses. Symptoms tend to be more severe and last for longer.
- Symptoms include sudden high temperature, headache and general aches and pains, aching muscles and joints, tiredness and sore throat. You can also lose your appetite, feel nauseous and have a cough.
- Flu occurs most often in winter and usually peaks between December and March in the northern hemisphere.
- For most healthy people influenza infection is just a nasty experience that is self-limiting and can be treated with medication that is available over the counter in pharmacies and supermarkets such as Paracetamol.
- Despite popular belief, the flu jab cannot give you flu as it doesn't contain the active virus needed to do this.
Why vaccinate against ’flu?
- Some people with serious long term conditions or with a compromised immune system are at much greater risk if they get flu and can suffer serious complications.
- The most common complications are bronchitis and pneumonia, which may require hospital admission and can be life threatening
- The high risk groups are not just the elderly, but include people of all ages who have serious conditions that put them at risk (see attached list for who is at risk) and also pregnant women in whom flu can lead to serious complications that can damage the health of both mother and baby.
Why vaccinate against ‘flu every year?
- The influenza virus is unstable and as a result new strains and variants are constantly emerging.
- The vaccine is changed each year to take account of the latest circulating strains.
- Our previous exposure to ‘flu may not have given us immunity to the latest strains and so the flu vaccine should be given each year.
Who should be vaccinated?
- All those 65 or over
- Those aged 6 months to 65 years who are in the high risk groups for vaccination
- Pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy
- Those in long stay residential or nursing homes
- Carers of elderly or disabled people
- Health and social care staff who are in direct contact with patients / clients
- All children aged 2, 3 and 4
- All children in school years 1,2 and 3
How is the vaccination given?
- For those over 16 years and from 6 months to 2 years, the vaccine is given in a single injection,
- For the younger age groups (2 to 16) a nasal vaccine has been introduced that has been used successfully for many years in the USA
- Children in clinical risk groups aged 2 to under 9 years who have not received ‘flu vaccine before should receive a second dose of vaccine at least four weeks later.
Where can you get your vaccination?
- The majority of people will be able to be vaccinated at their GP surgery – most practices have special clinic sessions during the Autumn - contact your GP practice for more information
- People who are carers may not be known in this capacity by their GP so should contact their surgery to request vaccination
- Front line health and social care staff should be immunised through their employer – employers have arrangements in place through their occupational health departments to make it easy for staff to access the vaccination
- Residential and nursing homes should have plans in place, usually with the local GP, to have residents vaccinated
- Pharmacies across the community have also been commissioned to give the flu vaccination to adults.
- Pregnant women in Peterborough have an additional option to have their flu vaccination given by their midwife.
When can you get your vaccination?
- The vaccine is available from October each year, and GP practices and occupational health departments are set up to vaccinate from then until December.
- As ‘flu usually circulates during the winter, the earlier you can have it the better
Groups recommended to receive flu vaccine
Flu vaccine should be offered to these eligible groups:
- All patients age 65 years and over
- Chronic respiratory disease
- Chronic heart disease
- Chronic kidney disease
- Chronic liver disease
- Chronic neurological disease
- Pregnant women
- People in long-stay residential or homes
- Health and Social Care staff
- All children aged 2, 3 and 4
- All children in school years 1, 2 and 3