GP advises getting the Flu Jab is Vital this Autumn
Those registered 65 years old and over in Bucks were better at getting the flu vaccine last year (71.3%) compared to England’s average of 70%, but GP’s at Your Doctor are raising awareness that the flu vaccine is not just for the over 65s. On average, 8,000 deaths a year could be prevented in the UK had those patients received the flu vaccine.
Dr Riccardo Di Cuffa of Your Doctor says: “Those who are eligible for the free NHS flu vaccine include adults over 65, pregnant women, children aged two to three as well as pupils in reception class and school years 1-4, and people with long-term health condition, as well as carers, but not everyone who is eligible is receiving the flu vaccine.
“For example, one risk group in Buckinghamshire who are not getting the flu vaccine in appropriate numbers are pregnant women. Catching the flu whilst pregnant can affect you and your baby, and in fact having the vaccine whilst pregnant also protects your baby against the flu during the early months of their life. In Bucks, only 45% of pregnant women received the flu vaccine last year and this really needs readdressing”.
After a terrible flu epidemic last winter, this year more people than ever in the UK – around 21 million – will be offered the vaccination. Dr Di Cuffa says: “It is especially important to look after our immune system during the winter months as flu viruses are more stable in the cold air and low humidity helps the virus particles remain in the air.” Children in school year four have been added to the programme, and children over four years old in reception year can now get their nasal spray flu vaccine in school.
“Many people believe the myth that having the flu vaccine gives you the flu, however, it’s impossible for the vaccine to give you the flu as it contains inactivated flu viruses. The vaccine may cause your arm to feel sore and give you a slight temperature but that is normal. You also need to receive a new vaccine every year as the viruses change each year.”
If you do get the flu then Dr Di Cuffa advises you stay at home to rest and avoid spreading it. “Drink plenty of fluids and treat your fever with paracetamol. If you have blocked sinuses fill the bathroom sink with hot water and breathe in deeply. Flu is very infectious and can easily spread, especially in the first five days. To reduce the risk of it spreading wash your hands often with soap, use tissues when you cough or sneeze and bin them as soon as possible. Seek medical help if you have any of the emergency warning signs of flu sickness such as difficulty breathing, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, severe or persistent vomiting, or flu-like symptoms that improved but then return with a fever, or a fever with a rash.”
In addition to receiving the flu vaccination, there are other ways to protect yourself from catching the flu. Dr Di Cuffa advises that you reduce stress in your life, maintain a healthy lifestyle and get a good sleep every night.
Here are top things you need to know about looking after your immune system from Dr Di Cuffa:
- Rest your immune system. Your immune system needs good quality sleep to recharge just like the rest of your body.
- Avoid stress. When you are stressed, your body releases chemicals to help you survive and cope, however too many of these chemicals over a long period can cause your immune system to become impaired and you could struggle to fight off illness and cope with stress simultaneously.
- Over exercising can be negative. Whilst exercising regularly has a massive benefit on your overall health and immune system, over exercising can disrupt the immune system and destroy white blood cells.
- Eating healthily is crucial. Eating plenty of fruit and veg boosts your immune system. A large percentage of the cells that make up your immune system are in the lining of your digestive tract which is why your gut is so important in protecting you against major diseases.
- You can also be too clean! On a day to day basis it is best to live your life normally and not overclean with anti-bacterial products, this is because the body needs to be exposed to bacteria to produce antibodies. This is especially the case with children.
- It could be best to get your flu jab in the morning. A study found that those who received their flu jab between 9am and 11am had higher levels of the antibodies for two flu strains one month later. This is because the immune system is more active and responsive in the morning.
- Vitamin D. Our bodies produce vitamin D when exposed to the sun which helps us fight off medical conditions such as heart disease and depression, it can also be good for people with autoimmune disorders and it helps us absorb calcium and is vital for our bones. Get tested for vitamin D as many of us living in the UK are vitamin D deficient and could need to take a vitamin D supplement, especially in the autumn and winter.
The four strain flu vaccine is available from Your Doctor from 20th September onwards.