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Protecting yourself from flu

Flu - what is it?

The flu, also known as influenza, is a viral infection spread by coughs and sneezes. It can cause mild to severe symptoms including:

  • High temperature
  • Headache
  • General aches and pains
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling nauseous

For most people it is a self-limiting condition with recovery of up to two weeks.  However, for those with long term conditions there is a risk of developing complications which at times can be life-threatening.

    How can I protect myself?

The most effective way to protect yourself is to have your flu vaccine each winter. The flu season runs from October through to February but the sooner you have it the better.

It reduces the chance of you getting serious, potentially life threatening complications from it.

It is important to protect yourself against flu but also important for you to have the vaccine to protect any young children, pregnant women, over 65year olds and those under 65years with a long term condition in your family or circle of friends.

If you are in certain clinical ‘at risk’ groups then you are entitled to a free flu vaccine, these groups include:

  • Are 65 years of age or over
  • Are pregnant
  • Have a long term medical condition such as diabetes, asthma, chronic liver disease, COPD etc.
  • Are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility
  • Receive a carers allowance or are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person
  • Are a healthcare worker with direct patient contact or social care worker
  • Are a child aged 2, 3, 4 years old or in school years 1&2

If you aren’t in one of the clinical ’at risk’ groups then you aren’t entitled to a free vaccine.  You can still get one at your local pharmacy but you will be charged.  For more information contact your local pharmacy

    Am I entitled to a free vaccination?

If you fall in one of these clinical ’risk groups’ you are also entitled to a flu vaccine. You are entitled to one because you need it. If you catch the flu, then unlike the general population, you run the risk of getting seriously ill and developing further complications from the flu virus.

Pregnant

You can safely have the vaccine without harming you or your baby and you can have the vaccine at any point during your pregnancy. 

If you don’t have the vaccine and you catch the flu virus whilst pregnant it can lead to complications such as:

  • Pneumonia
  • Premature Births

As well as these you run the risk of coming down with the flu just as you have a new baby to look after and care for.  If you receive the vaccine whilst pregnant your new born child also carries the immunity with them once they’re born for the first few months.

Aged 2-4 years

In 2014 the flu vaccine was offered to children aged 2-4 years, this year this has been extended to include children in school years 1 and 2.  The flu vaccine for children is a quick, effective and painless process and there are no needles involved, it is delivered in the form of a nasal spray.

It is important to vaccinate children for their own health as well as helping to prevent the spread of the flu virus to parents and grandparents who may be in the more vulnerable ‘at risk’ groups.

For more information about vaccinations for eligible children please read the Oxford Academic Health Network's helpful resource.

Over 65 years

If you are over 65 years old on the 31st of March 2015 you qualify for a free flu vaccine from the GP or local pharmacy.  As you age your immune system becomes weaker and you become more susceptible to flu and the risks of complications increase, so it is important to protect yourself, your family and friends.

If you are a carer of an elderly of disabled person, are a front line health and social care worker you are eligible for a free flu vaccine, this can protect both yourself and the people who you care for.  

Cares and health care workers

If you are a carer then coming down with the flu will greatly affect your ability to care for the person you are looking after and affect your own health.  If you are the main carer for the person you are looking after or are in receipt of a Carers Allowance then you are eligible for a vaccine.  Speak to your GP and explain your concerns for the welfare of the person you are looking after if you fall ill and they will be able to provide you with the vaccine. For more information, the NHS and Care Trust have produced these helpful sources of information:

If you are a health care worker outbreaks of flu can occur in health and social care settings, and because of the contagious nature of flu everyone is at risk, staff, patients and residents.  You are eligible for a free vaccine in order to protect yourself, your colleagues and the people whom you work with.  It is your employer’s responsibility to arrange for you to be vaccinated, so contact your relevant departments to find out your vaccination plan. 

    Where can I get my vaccine?

All adults can be vaccinated by their GPs or attend one of the local pharmacies listed below.  Children aged 2-4 years must attend their GP surgery to receive the vaccine and children in school years 1-2 will receive their vaccination at school. More information on when the school vaccination clinic starts is available on the NHS Berkshire Healthcare website. All child vaccines will be delivered in the form of a nasal spray, with NO needles.

Boots

5 The Parade, Silverdale Road, Earley
Unit 2, Asda Mall, Lower Earley District Centre
40 Market Place, Wokingham
89-95 Crockhamwell Road, Woodley

Day Lewis Rankin Pharmacy 

19 London Road, Twyford
15 Maiden Lane Cente, Lower Earley

Fields Pharmacy

1A Longfield Rd, Twyford

Finchampstead Pharmacy

434 Finchampstead Road, Wokingham

H Carson Ltd

Welford House, Basingstoke Road, Spencers Wood
Units 1 & 2, Lodden Vale, Hurricane Way, Woodley

Lloyds Pharmacy Wargrave

48 Victoria Road, Wargrave

Lloyds Pharmacy Woodley

1 & 2 Library Parade, Woodley

Newdays

1 London Road, Twyford

Tesco Pharmacy

78 Finchampstead Road, Wokingham

Vantage Chemist

231 Shinfield Road, Reading

W M Morrisons Pharmacy

Woosehill Shopping Centre, Woosehill

    Myth busting

It's no worse than a cold

Proper flu is much worse than a heavy cold and can really knock you off your feet, cause you to be admitted to hospital and in really severe cases it can be fatal.  It cannot be treated with antibiotics as it is a virus so it is important you protect yourself before you catch it with the vaccine.

I had it last year so don't need it again

You need the vaccine every year as the flu germs in circulation vary year to year; because of this the vaccine is changed each year to give you the best protection.   Even if you have had the flu it is worth having the vaccine as there are lots of strains of flu so you could catch it again.

It's January so the flu season has finished

The flu season runs throughout the winter months so it is still important to have it even if it is January but the earlier the better. 

I don't want to get the flu from the vaccine

Often people think the vaccine will make them unwell but it is in-active so it cannot ‘give you flu’. It could give you a sore arm and mild aches and pain which mean the vaccine is working and any effects should go within 48hrs.


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