My View, David Crichton: Jab could prevent life-threatening illness

It's that time of year again to roll up a sleeve and have the annual flu vaccination if you are one of those people who is at increased risk of getting the disease. As you can see, I've had mine expertly given by my practice health care assistant Emma Deere.

As a front line health worker, there’s an expectation that I will have a vaccination to reduce the chance of getting flu and spreading it to the patients I come in contact with and, in fact, I’ve had the jab every year since they were introduced many years ago!

So what is flu? It occurs every year, usually in the winter months, which is why it’s called seasonal flu. It’s a highly infectious virus with symptoms that come on very quickly. Colds are much less serious and usually start gradually with a stuffy or runny nose and a sore throat. A bad bout of flu can be much worse.

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The most common symptoms of flu are fever, chills, headache, aches and pains in the joints and muscles and excess tiredness. Healthy people usually recover within two to seven days, but for some the disease can result in much more serious problems, including a spell in hospital. It can be life-threatening. It’s caused by influenza viruses that infect the windpipe and lungs. And because it’s caused by viruses and not bacteria, antibiotics won’t work.

You can prevent the spread by covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, by washing your hands frequently, and by using hand gels to reduce the risk of picking up the virus.

Who should have the free flu vaccine? Flu can affect anyone, but if you have a long-term health condition the effects of flu can be worse, even if your condition is well controlled and you normally feel well.

You should contact your GP or local pharmacist to check if you need a jab, especially if you are pregnant or have a heart problem, significant chest or breathing problems, including chronic bronchitis, emphysema or asthma, known kidney disease, lowered immunity due to disease or liver disease, have had a stroke or a TIA, a neurological condition, such as multiple sclerosis or learning disability, a problem with your spleen, especially if your spleen has been removed, are classed as obese.

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There are other groups of people who should also consider having a jab, including those aged 65 and over, who live in a nursing home, who are the main carer of any of the groups above.

Like all vaccines, the flu jab can cause some minor side effects. You may feel a temporary soreness, or slight swelling and redness where you have been injected; have achy muscles or joints, or a slightly raised temperature, or headache. You should feel better within a day or so. Fortunately I had none of these.

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