As the colder months arrive and we approach winter, professionals across the UK are urging at-risk people to book themselves in for a flu jab. As the coronavirus pandemic continues, this year’s flu season could be far more dangerous than previous years. Therefore, vaccination is more important than ever.
We’re here today to discuss the flu jab in detail. We’ll be covering everything from flu symptoms, the effectiveness of the jab, and who should and shouldn’t get the vaccination.
What Is Flu?
Flu (influenza) is a highly infectious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. It often spreads through the air from coughing and sneezing, where infected droplets land on others who breathe them in and pick up the infection. Flu affects people of all ages. Whilst it’s pretty unpleasant, it usually clears up within a week in healthy people.
Flu is most severe in older people and those with chronic health issues, because it attacks the immune system. It can therefore lead to more serious health conditions such as pneumonia, sinus infections and worsening of existing conditions such as asthma.
There are three types of the flu virus: type A, B and C.
Type A is the most serious type of flu. It includes strains such as swine flu which are more likely to develop into pandemics. Type B is less severe and causes smaller outbreaks, usually in younger children. Type C is the mildest version, very similar to a cold.
What Are the Symptoms of Flu?
Symptoms range from mild to very severe. The most common symptoms of the flu include:
- Fever (38°C or higher)
- Muscular pain
- Sore throat
- Blocked nose
Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between a cold and the flu. However, a cold is much less severe so you will see reduced symptoms. A cold also develops gradually whilst flu symptoms will often appear suddenly and make you weak, usually resulting in being bed-ridden for a couple of days.
What Is the Flu Jab?
According to the CDC:
Traditional flu vaccines (called “trivalent” vaccines) are made to protect against three flu viruses; an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus. There are also flu vaccines made to protect against four flu viruses (called quadrivalent vaccines).
Because the flu virus mutates and changes all the time, you will need to get a vaccine every year to protect against new strains.
Who Should Get the Flu Vaccine?
Whilst anyone can get flu, it is more severe in those with existing health conditions and younger children as well as the over 65s. In general, vaccinations are strongly recommended for:
- People over the age of 65.
- Pregnant women.
- Those who are morbidly obese.
- Those living in a care home or other residential long-stay facilities.
- Health and social care workers.
- Those with long term health conditions such as heart, liver and neurological disease, severe asthma and diabetes.
- Those with weakened immunity.
This year, coronavirus means that health services are in danger of being overwhelmed. Therefore, it’s vital to prevent as many flu cases as possible. For this reason, the NHS is offering the flu jab to more people than ever. If you’re unsure about whether you should get a flu jab, speak to your GP or pharmacist.
How Does the Flu Jab Work and Is it Effective?
The flu jab causes your immune system to produce antibodies to the flu virus. Then, if you come in contact with the virus, the antibodies attack it. Studies have shown that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well-matched to the flu vaccine.
Does the Flu Vaccine Work the Same for Everyone?
While the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu, protection can vary widely depending on who is receiving the vaccine (in addition to how well-matched the flu vaccine is with the influenza viruses in circulation).
Some people, including young children, elderly people, and people with chronic illnesses might not respond as well to vaccination due to weakened immune systems, but the flu vaccine still may provide some protection.
Is it Safe?
Millions of people have been receiving flu jabs around the world for decades. Severe reactions are extremely rare. You may receive some mild side effects such as soreness around the injection site and cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose or a sore throat, but these will only last a day or two. Many people have no side effects at all.
Contrary to popular belief, the flu vaccine will not give you flu!
When Should I Get Vaccinated?
October to early November is the best time. The vaccination takes around two weeks to start protecting you against flu, so it’s best to get it before winter flu season is in full swing. However, if you have missed this period, you can still receive the flu jab later in the winter.
How Do I Get a Flu Jab?
Your doctor or pharmacist can administer the vaccination. We recommend you make an appointment as soon as possible to ensure that the vaccine is fully effective.
The flu jab is offered free on the NHS to:
- Anyone who is 65 or over
- Those who are pregnant
- People with certain health conditions
- Those in long-stay residential care
- Frontline healthcare or social care workers
Children older than 2 can also have the flu vaccine. This could be in the usual injection form, or in the form of a nasal spray.
Remember if you are still not sure whether you qualify for a free flu jab, speak to a health professional. They will be able to advise you further.
Personal Alarm Details
The thought of illness or injury can be very concerning, particularly for older people and those who live alone. Personal alarms are a simple, effective solution. To learn more, just read our in-depth guide or give our team a call on 0800 999 0400. Alternatively, complete our Contact Us form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Lifeline24: Supporting NHS Test and Trace
Here at Lifeline24, we are supporting the NHS COVID-19 app. The free app is a vital part of the NHS Test and Trace service in England, and the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect service.
Protect your loved ones. Download the app today.