Flu Jabs Myth buster

Our Flu Vaccine clinics are now available for eligible patients.

Here is a quick guide to the flu:

The myth buster can be found further down the page.

For most people, flu is unpleasant but not serious. You will usually recover within a week or so (though symptoms may persist for considerably longer than this).

Flu is a viral illness and as such antibiotics are ineffective and not indicated.

Certain people are at greater risk of developing serious complications of flu, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. These conditions may require hospital treatment.

The flu vaccine is offered free to people who are at risk, to protect them from catching flu and developing serious complications.

At-risk groups:

It is recommended that you have a flu jab if you:

- are 65 years old or over

- are pregnant (see below)

- have a serious medical condition (see below)

- are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility (not including prisons, young offender institutions or university halls of residence)

- are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill

- are a frontline health or social care worker (see below)

If you are the parent of a child who is over six months old and has a long-term condition on the list of medical conditions  below, speak to your GP about the flu vaccine. Your child’s condition may get worse if they catch flu.

Children WITHOUT long-term conditions

This is the first year that children are being routinely immunised. This is being done using a nasal spray. If your child was 2 or 3 years old on 1st September 2013 then they can be immunised. These immunisations ARE NOT being done in the walk-in clinics – please speak to reception who can book you an appropriate appointment.

Pregnant women

It is recommended that all pregnant women should have the flu vaccine, whatever stage of pregnancy they’re in.

This is because there is good evidence that pregnant women have an increased risk of developing complications if they get flu, particularly from the H1N1 strain.

Studies have shown that the flu vaccine can be safely and effectively given during any trimester of pregnancy. The vaccine does not carry risks for either the mother or baby. In fact, studies have shown that mothers who have had the vaccine while pregnant pass some protection to their babies, which lasts for the first few months of their lives.

People with medical conditions

The flu vaccine is offered free to anyone who is over six months of age and has one of the following medical conditions:

- chronic (long-term) respiratory disease, such as severe asthma, COPD or bronchitis

- chronic heart disease, such as heart failure

- chronic kidney disease

- chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis

- chronic neurological disease, such as a stroke,TIA or post-polio syndrome

- diabetes

- a weakened immune system due to conditions such as HIV, or treatments that suppress the immune system such as chemotherapy

There may be conditions not listed above when it would be appropriate for you to have a flu jab – if you are in any doubt please ask.

If you live with someone who has a weakened immune system, you may also be able to have a flu vaccine. Speak to your GP about this.

Frontline health or social care workers

Employers are responsible for ensuring that arrangements are in place for frontline healthcare staff to have the flu vaccine.

Outbreaks of flu can occur in health and social care settings, and staff, patients and residents are at risk of infection.

Frontline health and social care staff should protect themselves by having the flu vaccine to prevent the spread of flu to colleagues and other members of the community.

If you care for someone who is elderly or disabled, speak to your GP about getting vaccinated against seasonal flu. You should also ensure that the person you care for has the flu jab.

Flu Myth Buster

The flu vaccine gives you flu

No, it doesn’t. The injected flu vaccine given to adults contains inactivated flu viruses, so it can’t give you flu.

Your arm may feel a bit sore where you were injected, and some people get a slight temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days afterwards. Other reactions are very rare.

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.

Flu is just like having a heavy cold

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.

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.

Antivirals do not cure flu, but they can make you less infectious to others and reduce the length of time you may be ill.

To be effective, antivirals have to be given within a day or two of your symptoms appearing. A bacterial infection may occur as a result of having the flu, in which case you may be given antibiotics.

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.

I’m pregnant, so I shouldn’t have the flu jab because it will affect my baby

You should have the vaccine no matter what stage of pregnancy you’re in. If you’re pregnant, you could get 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.

The flu jab won’t protect me against swine flu

Yes, it will. This year’s flu vaccine protects against three different flu viruses, including the H1N1 swine flu virus. This is because the virus is expected to be circulating this year.

Children can’t have the flu 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.

I’ve had the flu already this autumn, so I don’t need the vaccination this year

You do need it 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.

If I missed having the flu jab in October, it’s too late to have it later in the year

No, it’s not too late. It’s better to have the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available, usually in October, but it’s always worth getting vaccinated after this, even if there have already been outbreaks of flu.

Vitamin C can prevent 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 you are in a target group and are yet to have your jab for this year please contact reception who can book you in.