Should I have a flu shot?
Well its that time of year again when the new flu vaccine comes into stock. As GP’s and Practice Nurses we get lots of questions about the vaccine. Keep reading for answers to the questions we are commonly asked…..Who are the high risk groups who should have the flu vaccine?Those with the highest risk of serious complications from the flu (pneumonia; respiratory failure; hospitalisation; stroke and heart attack) are those over 65 (even though you may be healthy the immune system changes with age make us more vulnerable) as well as those with asthma; diabetes; heart disease; lung disease or other chronic illnesses.Is the flu shot for me? I’m pretty well and don’t get the flu so I don’t think I need it!
The flu vaccine is the most effective way to protect yourself and others around you from the effects of seasonal flu. Just because you haven’t had a flu doesn’t mean you will never get it. Studies have found that people who work in schools, offices or have a lot of contact with people have significantly lower sick leave days if they have a flu vaccine. This is one of the reasons many workplaces offer free flu vaccinations for staff. Also if you have young children or relatives who are elderly or sick you will offer them additional protection by being protected yourself
I’ve heard the flu vaccine just gives you the flu?
A very few people get minor reactions to the flu vaccine which include some symptoms which can be flu-like. This is not the flu. Where people get ill following the flu vaccine this is usually another more minor respiratory virus which is not one of the 4 sub-types in the current year vaccine. This is not a reason not to vaccinate …just imagine how sick you might have been if you got the real flu!!
Why do you have to have one every year?
We know a lot about the flu virus now and the international medical community work together all the year round to understand how the flu viruses circulate around the world; how they change and which ones are going to cause the most illness. Fortunately this means we have a pretty good idea which strains are going to cause a problem in our southern winter and so the vaccine is tailored especially each year to give us the best protection possible against the strains that are coming our way
Is there anyone who shouldn’t have the flu shot?
There are a few very important times where we don’t recommend a flu shot1) babies under 6 months of age2) if you have a illness with a temperature you should not have a flu shot until you are well again3) if you have been allergic to the flu vaccine in the past (very rare)4) if you have had Guillien Barre syndrome in the past (also very rare this is a neurological condition and could be triggered again by another flu vaccine)
What about children and pregnant Mums? Should they have a flu vaccine?For any Mum who is pregnant over the flu season it is highly recommended that she have a flu vaccination. Pregnancy makes a woman and her unborn baby very vulnerable to severe flu illness. The evidence around this is very strong now. Also a Mum who is vaccinated in pregnancy will pass on antibodies across the placenta which will last a few months in the newborn baby providing some protection.Children (even healthy ones) are also more vulnerable than adults to severe flu illness. There are special age specific brands for children of various age groups over the age of 6 months. The first year a child has flu vaccination they need 2 doses 1 month apart to achieve the same protection. After this they just have 1 vaccination per flu seasonIf you have any other questions our experienced doctors and nurses will be more than happy to answer them