We’ve all seen the newspaper headlines about the NHS Winter crisis and hope that we won’t be forced to visit a hospital soon and become one of those hapless people forced to wait for treatment. So what can you do? One way of reducing demand on NHs is to self care and at this time of year the most effective way to do that is have a flu jab.
Getting a flu jab is the best way of reducing the spread of flu. It protects not only you, but friends, family and co-workers. These jabs really can save lives. But if you still have reservations about the flu vaccine here are some of this year’s common flu myths and the myth busting truth behind them.
Flu is just like having a heavy cold
An estimated average of 8,000 people die of flu each year in England
A bad bout of flu is much worse than a heavy cold. Flu symptoms come on suddenly and sometimes severely. They include fever, chills, headaches and aching muscles, as well as a cough and sore throat.
You’re likely to spend two or three days in bed. If you get complications caused by flu, you could become seriously ill and have to go to hospital.
Having the Flu jab gives you flu
No, it doesn’t. It is impossible to get flu from the flu vaccine because the adult vaccine does not contain live viruses.
A very small number of people experience side effect such as aching muscles, but this is simply the immune system responding to the vaccine
Read more about how the injected flu vaccine works.
The children’s nasal spray flu vaccine contains live but weakened flu viruses that will not give your child flu.
Read more about the children’s flu vaccine.
Flu can be treated with antibiotics
No, it can’t. Flu is caused by viruses – antibiotics only work against bacteria. You may be prescribed antiviral medicines to treat your flu, however these do not cure flu but will make you less infectious to others and will reduce the length of time you are ill.
To be effective, antivirals have to be given within a day or two of symptoms appearing. A bacterial infection may occur as a result of having the flu, in which case you may be given antibiotics.
Find out more about why antibiotics shouldn’t be overused.
I’m pregnant so I can’t have the jab because it will affect my baby
Yes you can. You should have the vaccine no matter what stage of pregnancy you’re in. If you are pregnant you could become very ill if you get Flu, which could also be bad for your baby. Having the jab can also protect your baby against flu after they’re born and during the early months of life.
Read more about the flu jab in pregnancy.
I had the Flu jab last year so I don’t need it again
The flu jab does not protect you for life. You won’t be protected against new strains of flu that are circulating. The viruses that can cause flu can change every year, so you need a vaccination each year that matches the new viruses.
Read more about what’s in this winter’s flu vaccine.
I take vitamin C to prevent against flu
No, it can’t. Many people think that taking daily vitamin C supplements will stop them getting flu, but there’s no evidence to prove this.
If I missed getting the flu jab in October it’s too late to have it later in the year
It’s never too late. It’s better to have the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available, usually in October, but it is always worth getting vaccinated after this, even if there have already been outbreaks of flu.
Once you’ve had the flu vaccine you’re protected for life
No, you aren’t. The viruses that cause flu can change every year, so you need a vaccination that matches the new viruses each year. The vaccine usually provides protection for the duration of that year’s flu season.
You definitely need the vaccine if you’re in one of the “at risk” groups.
As flu is caused by several viruses, the immunity you naturally developed will only protect you against one of them – you could go on to catch another strain, so it’s recommended you have the jab even if you’ve recently had flu. Also, what you thought was flu could have been something else.
Children can’t have the vaccine
Yes, they can!
The nasal spray flu vaccine is recommended on the NHS for all healthy two- and three-year-olds – plus children in reception class, and school years one, two, three and four.
In addition, children “at risk” of serious illness if they catch flu are eligible for a flu vaccine on the NHS. This includes children with a pre-existing illness, such as a respiratory or neurological condition, and children who are having treatment that weakens their immune system, such as chemotherapy.
The flu vaccine is generally given as an injection to children aged six months to two years and as a nasal spray to children aged 2 to 17 years who have a long-term health condition.
The flu vaccine isn’t suitable for babies under the age of six months.
Read more about which children can have the flu vaccine.
Get your free flu vaccine
If you can get a free flu vaccine, don’t put it off. It’s free because you need it. Flu can be very serious for some people, including those with long term health conditions, pregnant women, the very young, and people aged 65 and over. Book your free vaccine with your GP or find out more at NHS Choices.
So you now know what to do