Many of us will have seen the posters about flu vaccinations. Undoubtedly those with young children have received invites either from the GP surgery or the school health team inviting them for a flu spray. Peak flu season is typically December till February. The protection from the vaccination will begin within 2 weeks so its advisable to get vaccinated before the season is well under way.
What is flu?
Flu is caused by the influenza virus. If you have ever had it (or know someone who has) you will know its different from a general cold. The symptoms appear quite rapidly, you may have muscle aches, feel very drowsy. It may be accompanied with nausea and vomiting, along with diarrhoea or stomach cramps. With flu, you generally will be too unwell to carry on with normal activities. The symptoms may last a week, and after the virus has passed you may feel weak/tired for a few more days.
In 2017 more people were admitted to intensive care and required general hospital admission than in the previous 6 years! A further 16 children tragically lost their lives due to flu complications and the total flu related deaths in UK for 2017 was 15,969! If you want the full statistics for flu outbreaks compared to previous years the reports are here.
How do the flu sprays, and the injected vaccination vary?
There are three types of vaccination available.
Adjuvanted trivalent flu vaccine (aTIV) is the one recommended to over 65’s. NHS England advise GP surgeries to offer this between September and early November.
Quadrivalent vaccine (QIV) this is the recommend vaccine for children aged 6 months -2 years and those adults under 65 with an existing medical condition.
Live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) this is the nasal spray that is recommend for children aged 2-18 years old.
The nasal spray is a live vaccine. This means it is made from weakened down influenza virus. You cannot catch flu from the spray, but you may have some cold like symptoms including muscle aches a few days after. If you are severely allergic to eggs this may not be the best option for you, so please discuss with a medical practitioner.
The NHS will vaccinate free of charge people in the following groups. More information can be found from the NHS website on this link here.
- Those 65 and over
- Children over 6 months with a health condition
- All children aged 2 or 3 years old
- Children in school classes from reception up to year 5.
- Pregnant women
- If you are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person
- Those with long term breathing or respiratory problems (such as Asthma)
- Anyone with cardiac/liver or kidney conditions
- Diabetic patients
- Anyone with weakened immunity (HIV, Aids, Chemotherapy, sickle cell disease)
- Neurological conditions (such as parkinsons)
- Being seriously overweight (BMI of 40 or above)
*Please check link above as this is not an exhaustive list, others may well meet vaccination criteria.
How to treat flu
Sadly there isn’t any magic remedies for treating flu. Antibiotics wont work so there is usually no need to visit the GP. However, if you are concerned or experiencing complications please do seek medical advice.
Key things to help:
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water
- Try to rest/sleep
- Stay warm
- Simple painkillers/temperature reducing measures such as paracetamol or ibuprofen may help.
Please seek advice of the pharmacist if you need help choosing suitable medications. Don’t forget many over the counter preparations also contain paracetamol.