The Winter - colds and influenza
Green Light Pharmacy can offer flu jabs to:
- Those in at risk groups but who do not want to queue at the GP's for their free jab.
- Those who may class themselves as at risk but who are not covered under the NHS target risk groups, so their GP may not vaccinate them.
- Anyone else who feels they need it eg business people who can't afford time off work, as it is very well tolerated (see below).
People with egg protein allergies should not have the flu injection without talking to their doctor first. It may cause some soreness at the injection site and, less often, a slight temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days. If pregnant see your doctor about the flu vaccination.
The best time to be vaccinated is between late September and November, ready for the winter. You shouldn't wait until there is a flu epidemic.
Flu vaccinations are administered during travel clinic sessions, so ring to make an appointment today.
Influenza is caused by a virus that attacks mainly the upper respiratory tract - the nose, throat and bronchi tubes (and rarely also the lungs). The infection usually lasts for about a week. It is characterized by sudden onset of high fever, headache, shivering, muscle aches and pains, non-productive cough, sore throat, and rhinitis (runny nose), it is usually worse than a cold. Most people recover within one to two weeks without requiring any medical treatment, after a period of feeling weak and tired.
In the very young, the elderly and people suffering from medical conditions such as lung diseases, diabetes, cancer, kidney or heart problems - influenza poses a serious risk. In these people, the infection may lead to severe complications like bronchitis and secondary bacterial pneumonia resulting in death, especially in the over 65's. About 12,000 people die each year from seasonal influenza in England and Wales.
Influenza rapidly spreads around the world in seasonal epidemics, where it will affect 5-15% of the population, and imposes a considerable economic burden in the form of hospital and other health care costs, and lost work hours/productivity. The good news is that the UK has had seven consecutive years of low 'flu virus activity.
In a Pandemic, where the virus may mutate, influenza outbreak as in 1918-19 (Spanish flu), 1957 (Asian) and 1968 (Hong Kong flu) many more people are infected and die, even the fit young and healthy.
The virus is easily passed from person to person through the air by minute droplets and small particles released when infected individuals cough or sneeze, where it enters the new host's body through the nose or throat. It then takes between one and four days for the person to develop symptoms. Someone suffering from influenza can be infectious from the day before they develop symptoms until seven days afterwards. The disease spreads very quickly among the population especially in crowded circumstances. Cold weather enables the virus to survive longer outside the body therefore seasonal epidemics appear in winter in most parts of the world, also as a consequence of us being in closer contact with each other during winter as we stay indoors.
What can you do ...
To lesson the chance of catching the flu, remember how it is spread ... by minute droplets during sneezing or coughing ... therefore:
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick with the flu protect others by staying at home if you are able, away from work, school, shopping etc.
Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
Cleaning and washing your hands often will help protect you from the virus. There is now available hand gels and foams which give long lasting protection.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth as the virus is transferred when you touch something that is contaminated with the virus, and then go on to touch the eyes, nose, or mouth. On average we touch them up to 3 times every 5 minutes.
Increase your immunity by getting plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food. Adding on a vitamin like Vitamin C or the B-group, or garlic and echinacea can help boost your immunity.
If you do get the flu, then get lots of rest, drink plenty of fluids and take some paracetamol (if not contra-indicated for you).
NHS Flu Vaccination
Vaccination reduces the risk of influenza (75% effective) and of epidemics. It is recommended that elderly persons, and persons of any age who are considered at 'high risk' for influenza-related complications due to underlying health conditions, should be vaccinated.
Special flu clinics are held each autumn, ask your GP or practice nurse for details. You are entitled to a free flu jab if you:
- are aged 65 or over,
- are a resident in a long-term residential care home,
- have diabetes,
- are having cancer treatment,
- have lowered immunity due to HIV or steroid medication, or
- have a long-term (chronic) condition, such as kidney or liver disease.
Most adults catch around 5 colds a year. The symptoms compared with the 'flu are more nasal and much milder.
Is it a cold or the 'flu?
|starts slowly||rapid onset|
|Temperature may not rise||high temperature within first day|
|appetite normal||poor appetite|
|up and about||usually bedridden|
|just nose chest and throat||whole body affected|
|slight headache||maybe severe headache|
Health Protection Agency on flu.
Patient UK website on Flu.
Department of Health advice on Flu.
Family Doctor on Flu.