Weekend Diagnosis: Have the jab and protect yourself from the dangers of flu

19 November 2015

Weekend Diagnosis: Have the jab and protect yourself from the dangers of flu

CEO Mairead McAlinden having her flu jab

This Weekend Diagnosis is from Mairead McAlinden, our Chief Executive

With the weather unbelievably mild for this time of year, it may seem odd to be talking about winter and all that it can bring. But winter can be seriously bad for our health and a challenging time for health and care services. Along with the colder temperatures we see a rise in the number of infections, colds and flu like illnesses. For many of us, these result in a few days inconvenienced with runny noses, stocking-up on cold remedies and early nights. However, for those with an underlying health condition or those over the age of 65 a minor illness can get much worse very quickly.

One of the best pieces of advice I can offer is to get your flu vaccination. It’s provided free of charge by the NHS to pregnant women, those aged over 65, children up to the age of 6, and anyone who has a medical condition which could be worsened by flu. It is quick, simple, virtually painless and – despite myths to the contrary – cannot actually give you the flu as it contains no live virus.

Those who have had the flu will tell you it is very different to a common cold, often confining the fittest of people to bed. For those in the ‘at risk’ groups the effects can be much more serious and in some cases fatal. So it’s really important that people take the opportunity to protect themselves.

Our staff vaccination clinics are also well underway. These are a vital element of the annual response to flu, with two major benefits: protecting individual staff members and their teams from the virus, thereby avoiding unnecessary staff sickness and ensuring our services remain accessible and effective during the winter; and minimising the risk of staff passing the flu to those they care for.

Prevention is definitely better than cure so taking steps to stay well this winter can really make a difference:

  • Get a flu vaccination
  • Heat your home to at least 18 degrees Celsius (or 65 Fahrenheit), if you can
  • Seek immediate advice and help from a pharmacist as soon as you feel unwell, before it gets too serious
  • Keep an eye on elderly or vulnerable friends, neighbours and relatives
  • Get prescriptions before Christmas Eve
  • Take your prescribed medicines as directed.

Find out more at www.nhs.uk/staywell.

Weekend Diagnosis a fortnightly column published in the Herald Express discussing local health and care issues.

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