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Changing seasons prompts reminders for annual flu vaccine

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After quite a long and intense summer this year, the changing of the seasons could well make things feel much colder than we’ve become used to.

As the nights draw in and our bodies try to adjust to the shift in temperatures, there’s little doubt we’ll start to see many people around us dealing with a seasonal cold. Naturally we’ll want to take precautions to keep ourselves and those close to us as safe and warm as possible to prevent the spread of any illnesses.

For our older loved ones, this typically means getting the flu vaccine, which is often a vital part of winter preparations. Now is the perfect time to do it, as the NHS advises receiving your annual flu jab between the beginning of October and the end of November. This will help to ensure vulnerable people are protected during the cold season ahead.

What threat does the flu pose?

Dealing with the flu can be an uncomfortable and unpleasant experience for usually healthy adults, simply going away after a week or so. However, for those with weaker immune systems or those with underlying health problems are deemed to be at risk of facing further complications that can arise from having the virus.

Adults aged over 65 and young children are strongly advised to receive the flu vaccine, alongside other children and adults with pre-existing conditions, particularly concerning the heart or lungs. Complications arising from a strong strain of flu can include development of bronchitis or pneumonia, which is why it’s always a good idea to prevent getting the flu in the first place.

The NHS offers free flu vaccines for people who will be aged 65 or over on 31 March 2019, as well as younger adults and children viewed as ‘high risk’ individuals. This includes pregnant women, people with pre-existing health conditions and those providing care for a vulnerable person. This will help to prevent them from unknowingly carrying and passing on the virus.

The best way to enquire about getting your flu vaccine is to contact either your GP surgery or a local pharmacy that may offer the service. However, these pharmacies may only offer the flu jab to adults but not children.

Getting the vaccine

While flu vaccines are fairly common, it’s important for individuals to be aware of potential side effects or aspects of your health that may cause an issue. In some cases, if you’ve had a serious allergic reaction following vaccines in the past, it may be necessary to avoid the jab. If you have any doubts, consult with your GP to discuss your concerns.

General side effects of the flu jab can range from headaches to tiredness and even loss of appetite while the vaccine takes effect. While these can cause some mild discomfort, they shouldn’t pose as too much of a serious risk. However, it’s possible that you could experience aching muscles for a few days afterwards, as well as tenderness around the area of your arm where you were injected.

For children between the ages of 2 and 17 who are eligible for the vaccine, it’s common for them to receive a nasal spray as opposed to a needle injection. This method means that common side effects can include a runny or blocked nose afterwards, which is fairly harmless and should clear up after a short time.

Whether adult or child, if you or your loved one is already experiencing symptoms of a fever, it’s highly advised that you delay your vaccination until after you’ve recovered. This will help to ensure that the immune system is as fit and stable as possible to get to work protecting you against flu strains.

Dealing with the flu

Having the vaccine certainly helps to combat the flu in the first place, but there’s no guarantee it can keep you completely immune. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms so you can spot when someone might become affected.

Largely similar to those of the common cold, symptoms include a sudden high temperature, aches and pains, tiredness and a sore throat – only they may feel more severe. If left untreated, additional health problems could arise so it’s highly advised to visit your GP if you start to feel unwell.

A GP can prescribe antiviral medication to fight the flu and preventing further problems. However, for treatment to be effective, it’s best to seek medical advice as soon as possible, rather than waiting to see if the symptoms get any worse.