Flu season has begun once again. For most of us, flu is unpleasant, uncomfortable, and miserable at best, but for others it can be potentially dangerous. It is for this reason that so many of us have access to a free flu vaccine. Those who are eligible include members of at-risk groups and those who work closely with them, such as carers or front-line health and social workers.
Who is potentially at risk?
Those who are most at risk of complications arising from flu are:
- Over 65s.
- Pregnant women.
- Sufferers of asthma or other chronic respiratory diseases.
- People who have diabetes.
- Carers and health workers, particularly those who work closely with other at-risk groups.
- Sufferers of chronic conditions including chronic heart, liver, or kidney disease.
- People who have a weakened immune system, including HIV or AIDS patients or those undergoing cancer treatment or steroid treatment.
- People who have had a stroke or transient ischaemic attack.
- Sufferers of spleen problems, or people who have had their spleen removed.
What are the possible complications of flu?
Complications arising from flu can vary in severity, and even the healthiest young adult could end up with an ear or sinus infection. People with chronic lung diseases such as asthma, however, are at higher risk of pneumonia, while sufferers of chronic heart disease could experience a worsening of their symptoms. There is also the risk of some potentially life-threatening complications, including inflammation of the heart, brain, or muscle tissues, multi-organ failure, or even sepsis. In addition, asthma sufferers could experience more frequent or more severe asthma attacks.
Pregnant women are also highly at risk from flu complications, as your immune system is weakened during pregnancy. As a result , pregnant women may see their flu infection develop more quickly into pneumonia or other serious conditions. There is also the risk of premature labour and delivery, or low birth weight.
If you are over 65, your immune system may also be weakened, and there is a higher chance that you may have another underlying condition which could be worsened by a flu infection. Over 65s are the most commonly hospitalised due to flu complications.
How do I get my flu vaccine?
If you are a healthcare professional, it is your employer’s responsibility to arrange for you to have your flu vaccine. If you are otherwise eligible, you can make an appointment with your GP surgery. Your GP will be running flu jab sessions over the coming weeks, with the peak flu-jab season being between September and November. Some pharmacies are also offering the flu vaccine to members of at-risk groups, so you can also speak to them to make an appointment. In some areas, pregnant women will automatically be offered the flu vaccine as part of their antenatal care, but if you unsure please contact your midwife or GP surgery.
How else can I protect myself from flu?
It is always recommended that you have the flu vaccine if you are at higher risk of complications. In addition to the vaccine there are some other steps you can take to protect against flu. It is recommended that everyone follow these guidelines in order to protect those who are more vulnerable.
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water.
- Clean well-used surfaces, such as handles, keyboards, or phones, regularly.
- Use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
- Dispose of used tissues as soon as possible in a sanitary manner.
- Maintain a good diet in order to boost your immune system.
If you would like more information on the flu vaccine, you can visit the NHS website which will give you in-depth information on all aspects of flu and the flu vaccine.