Protect yourself from the flu this winter

Muriel Poland cropped - Copy

Muriel Poland, British Lung Foundation Helpline Nurse

With Christmas just around the corner the last thing anyone wants is to get the flu and not be able to enjoy the festive season with loved ones. British Lung Foundation Helpline nurse, Muriel Poland, explains why getting the flu vaccination this winter can be extremely important.

Flu is a highly infectious illness caused by the influenza (flu) virus and spreads very quickly. You can catch it any time of year, but it is much more common in the winter.

Anyone can be hit by the flu – but people could be at greater risk of catching it if they, or someone they look after, has a chronic condition such as a lung or heart condition, diabetes or a condition that weakens their immune system. People are also at risk if they are pregnant, aged 65 or over, or work in the health and care sectors.

The flu is associated with a number of symptoms including a sudden fever, dry chesty cough, headache, tiredness, sore throat, runny or blocked nose, aching muscles, diarrhoea or an upset stomach. The symptoms appear a couple of days after infection and people will usually recover within a week – but they might feel tired for longer than that.

However, those living with a long-term health condition like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are at greater risk of developing serious complications, such as pneumonia if they get the flu. It is therefore important that at-risk people, health care professionals and carers of people at-risk get the flu vaccination.

The flu vaccination is an injection usually given in the upper, outer part of the arm. The overall procedure can take up to 20 minutes, as the person giving the vaccine will need to prepare and ask a few questions about any allergies or conditions the person might have. The actual vaccination will only take 30 seconds. It is impossible to get flu from the flu jab, as it doesn’t contain live viruses – and the risk of having a serious reaction is low. It is one of the safest vaccines in the world.

Think about whether you need to get the flu jab and keep yourself, your patients, colleagues and family safe this Christmas.

For more information about the flu jab and its potential side-effects contact your GP or the BLF Helpline on 03000 030 555. www.blf.org.uk

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