Every autumn, health bodies around the UK drive campaigns to encourage more people to receive the flu vaccine. Not only does influenza cause hundreds of thousands of death around the globe each year, but it also impacts the economy by forcing people to take sick days.
The flu vaccine is very easy to access, however, it continues to be a serious health risk for certain at risk groups. Additionally, people may be exposing themselves to the virus unnecessarily through contact with unvaccinated people.
Most people who become ill with the flu find that the worst symptoms last for around one week, and involve a fever, headache, aches & pains, fatigue and coughing.
Who is at risk from the flu?
For people who fall into an at risk category for the flu, it’s strongly recommended that they get vaccinated along with their partner. If you fall into an at risk group, however, the flu can be far more dangerous, leading to severe illness and even death. The at risk groups for flu are:
- Older people (e.g. the over-65s)
- Pregnant women
- People with certain long-term health conditions such as asthma, COPD, chronic kidney disease, hepatitis, Parkinson’s and diabetes
- People with a weakened immune system due to an illness, or as a result of medication or certain medical treatments (e.g. chemotherapy)
When people from these groups contract the flu virus, they are far more likely to suffer serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia. People with pre-existing conditions may find that their illness worsens when they have the flu, and pregnant women may go into premature labour or even miscarry.
My partner falls into one of these groups. What should I do?
If your partner falls into an at risk category for the flu, it’s strongly advised that both of you receive the flu vaccine. This is because the flu vaccine is never 100% effective in preventing infection. Even if your partner has received the jab, they may still be vulnerable to infection; receiving the vaccine yourself will limit their exposure to the virus and reduce their risk.
Remember too that the flu vaccine changes every year. To stay protected both of you should get vaccinated once a year, ideally in October or early November.
Can I receive the flu jab for free?
You can receive the flu jab for free if you fall into one of the following groups:
- Pregnant women
- People with certain long-term medical conditions
- People with weakened immune systems
- Young children
- Health and social care workers
- Carers for the elderly or disabled
To find out if you qualify, talk to your GP. If you do not qualify for the free flu jab, but your partner is in an at risk group, it’s still recommended that you get vaccinated.
To book an appointment to receive the flu jab with LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor click here.
How else can I avoid the flu?
If you want to avoid contracting the flu, the best thing to do is receive the vaccine. In addition to getting vaccinated, you should also take these precautions during flu season:
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water, particularly after spending times in crowds or on public transport
- Keep keyboards, kitchen counters, telephones and door handles clean
- Avoid sharing cutlery, crockery, towels or toothbrushes with other people
If you contract the flu and you’re concerned about passing it on to an at risk person, remember that the flu is spread by the germs in coughs and sneezes.
You should always cough and sneeze into tissues and throw them into a bin as soon as you’ve used them. Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water, and try to avoid prolonged close contact with at risk people.