Flu facts and how to protect yourself
Don't let the flu get you!
What exactly is flu?
Influenza (flu) is a serious disease caused by a virus. It’s not a just a bad cold! In some cases, flu can develop into something worse and complications can lead to death.
How it spreads:
• through coughs and sneezes
• by touching door handles and tables, then touching your face
• directly, through saliva or nose secretions (snot!)
That’s why it’s important to wash your hands properly and ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ using a tissue. If you don’t have a tissue handy, use the inside of your elbow!
How can I avoid getting flu?
Your best defence against flu is vaccination. It helps your immune system fight off the flu virus.
You may not be fully protected – and there are other viruses at this time of year which can make you very poorly - but it will dramatically reduce your chances of getting flu and spreading it to other people who may not be able to fight it off easily.
If you are unfortunate enough to get flu, vaccination will reduce the severity of your infection and reduce the chances of you having to go to hospital. It could save your life!
Who should get vaccinated?
Anyone can get flu – even the healthiest of people. Each year a free vaccine is offered to certain groups of people considered to be more ‘at risk’, either because they already have health problems, because of their age, because of where they work or because they are pregnant.
The vaccination is free for the following people:
• those aged 65 and over – make an appointment with your GP practice or ask at your local pharmacy.
• pregnant women – you can have the flu vaccine at any point during your pregnancy and it will help to protect you and your baby. Pregnant women have a higher chance of developing complications if they catch flu while pregnant. Ask your midwife or GP about the vaccine.
• those with a long-term health condition (eg. Diabetes, COPD, heart failure) – you are more likely to develop serious complications of flu, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, if you already have a health condition. Adults with a learning disability are also entitled to a free vaccine.
• 2 and 3 year olds – if your child is aged 2 or 3 as of August 31, 2019 they are entitled to a free, painless nasal spray – no needles involved. You should receive a letter inviting you to make an appointment with your GP. Children are ‘super spreaders’ when it comes to flu, so you could be preventing elderly relatives from becoming seriously ill, as well as protecting your child from a nasty infection. Look out for Flo the Flu Fairy in her quest to 'Shoo the flu away'!
• School children from Reception to Year 6 – four to 10 year olds receive the nasal spray via their school health programme. Make sure you’ve signed the consent form, and check with your child’s school if you’re not sure.
• Health and care workers – flu can spread really quickly in care settings. If you are a frontline health or care worker, you can get the flu vaccine via your employer. This may be on site or at your local pharmacy. If you care for someone and being ill would affect how you can look after them, or you receive a Carer’s Allowance, ask your GP or pharmacist about a free flu vaccine.
Can the vaccine give me flu?
No! The part of the flu virus which causes infection is destroyed - so you can’t get flu from vaccination. You might have a sore arm from the needle. If you feel poorly afterwards, you may have picked up another virus – there are lots at this time of year.
If it’s genuine flu, you’ll know about it! Don’t take the risk – get vaccinated.
The nasal spray can’t cause flu either. It’s even more important for children to get vaccinated as they’re considered ‘super spreaders’ which means they can easily pass on the virus to other people. After having the nasal spray, some children might get a runny or blocked nose but this is nothing compared to them having flu.
In Bolton last year, almost 300 people were in hospital with flu. Around a quarter were under 5s and extremely poorly.
I’ve got flu – what should I do?
If you think you have flu, it’s important to stay at home and rest until you feel better. Please don’t turn up at your GP practice as flu is highly contagious and could make someone even more poorly than you!
If you’re worried about yours or your child’s symptoms then call your GP practice and they will advise what to do.
Symptoms can come on quickly and include a high temperature, aches and pains, and you may not be able to get out of bed. Even healthy people get flu!
Keep warm/drink plenty of water/take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower your temperature and help with aches and pains.
You should start to feel better after a week. Your pharmacist can also help with remedies.
Antibiotics will not work against flu as it is a viral infection.
Anyone not entitled to a free vaccine can still get protected via their local pharmacy for around £10. Call in for more info.