Flu vaccinations are available every year on the NHS. People over 65, pregnant or those with underlying health issues are advised to have the jab.
Flu, or to give it its proper title, influenza is a respiratory illness caused by a virus. It is highly contagious and is spread by coughs,sneezes and touching. You are contagious 1-2 days before you are even aware of any symptoms which makes controlling the spread really challenging. Flu is sometimes confused with a cold but is very different. Flu involves a high temperature, cold sweats and shivers, aching joints and limbs, tiredness and sometimes a headache.
As flu is a virus, antibiotics are useless.For most people it is about getting rest and taking certain painkillers. It is also important to consume plenty of liquids, eat if you can and get plenty of rest. It would be advisable to see a doctor if you are elderly, your temperature remains high after 4/5 days or your symptoms worsen.A serous complication of flu is pneumonia which is a lung infection. It is for this reason that the NHS recommend a flu vaccination every year.
Everyone is encouraged to have a flu vaccine but is is particularly recommended for people over 65, pregnant women, young children and those with underlying heath issues, these include people who suffer from asthma, heart disease, kidney disease to name a few.
The first flu vaccine is a live quadrivalent vaccine which is given as a nasal spray. This vaccine is for people aged 2-17. For adults aged 18-65 there is a quadrivalent injection and for those people over the age of 65 there is a different vaccine. The idea behind the different vaccines is to try to make the vaccine more effective for each age group.
The vaccine works like other vaccinations in that it stimulates your bodys immune system to make antibodies to attack the flu virus.You will need to have the vaccination every year as the antibodies that protect you decline over time as well as the flu itself changing each year.
The NHS argue that whilst the vaccination will not provide 100% guarantee that you wont get the flu it will help prevent you getting it. And even if you do get the flu after a vaccination the evidence is that the symptoms are milder than if you didn't have the vaccination. The best time to have the vaccine is October, November but you can have one later on in the winter if need be.
One of the main arguments against the vaccine is that historically it hasn't always been that effective. The winter 2014-15 is often cited as a case as the vaccine was seen as being particularly ineffective. This is because the flu virus will be constantly evolving and changing.The argument is therefore that the pharmaceutical industry will never be able to keep up with all these changes. Many also argue that unless you have an underlying health issue, or are pregnant or aged over 65 then the flu may not be a serious illness. You will find many different arguments online. Our advice would always be to talk to your GP if you have any concerns.
You can get the flu vaccine at your GP's surgery, local pharmacy or some midwives will be able to give it to pregnant women.Some schools may also administer the jab to your children, with your consent.