Winter is coming … and with it, the dreaded flu virus. You know how it is: you’re trying your best to stay healthy – taking regular doses of vitamin C and keeping warm, but one of your colleagues is sneezing and spluttering around the office. It’s only a matter of time before you get the flu yourself.
1. How to Avoid the Flu
The Seasonal Influenza Vaccine may help to avoid getting the flu and may be used by those with chronic health problems, according to Dr Neil Reddy of Precision Health. He emphasises however that those people should weigh up the potential benefits before deciding to get it.
2. Who Should Get the Flu Vaccine?
While the vaccine is optional for the average person, it’s highly recommended for certain ‘at risk’ groups according to the HSE. These include those over the age of 65; those who receive regular medical treatment for diabetes, heart, lung, kidney or neurological diseases; and those with a body mass index of 40 or over.
In addition, healthcare workers should be vaccinated as they run a high risk of exposure to the virus. The same goes for carers or anyone living with someone at risk of getting the flu.Those with reduced immunity due to cancer or because they are undergoing medical treatment should also be vaccinated. It’s also highly advisable for pregnant women at any stage of the pregnancy, as they can pass on the virus to their unborn child.
3. Can I Get the Flu from the Vaccine?
The vaccine helps a person’s immune system to produce anti-bodies, allowing them to fight the virus if they come into contact with it. It takes an average of three weeks to start working and contains only inactivated viruses, which means you can’t get the flu from the vaccine.
4. Is the Vaccine 100% Effective?
Even if you do get the vaccine, it doesn’t always immunise you against the flu. This is because each year it contains the strains of virus thought to be most likely to result in pandemics for the upcoming season. “The reality is that it’s impossible to predict 100 per cent which strain will be prevalent each winter which means the vaccine is only 40 to 90 per cent effective,” says Dr. Reddy.
5. Is the Flu Vaccine Dangerous?
Side effects of the vaccine are rare but they do occur on occasion. “The reaction is tolerable in most cases,” says Dr. Reddy. “Just one in 10 will experience headaches, muscle and, or joint pain, swelling and pain in the site of the injection, fever, sweating and a general feeling of being unwell.”
And although it only happens rarely, the vaccine can also trigger a reaction in those allergic to eggs. Those who have a history of egg allergy should have the vaccine administered in a hospital or by a GP.
Where do I get the Flu Vaccine?
Children should be vaccinated by a GP, but adults can get the vaccine from their GP or from their pharmacist. The vaccine is free for anyone in the ‘at risk’ group, and also for those with a Medical Card or Visit GP card. Everyone else will be charged a consultation fee.
For more information about the flu vaccine visit the HSE website
About Dr. Neil Reddy
MB BCh BAO (Hons), B.Med.Sci, LFOM, MSc (Health Informatics), MSc (Clinical Education)
Dr. Neil Reddy of Precision Health is a Licentiate of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. He has extensive experience in the design and delivery of health screening and wellness programmes for small and large clients, including several multinational companies.