With winter quickly closing in on us, many pharmacies, medical practices and medical aids are talking about the importance of flu vaccinations. “Share a hug, not the flu” posters are making their appearance. Year after year, thousands of us suffer flu during the winter season (from May to September), despite the fact that flu is a vaccine-responsive disease. This means that we are able to avoid getting sick, or at least greatly reduce the severity of illness due to flu. In otherwise healthy individuals, the risks and costs of getting a flu shot are generally well worth it for the protection it provides. Therefore, the vaccine can be strongly recommended to most people.
1. Why is it important to be vaccinated against flu?
The respiratory tract – which leads from your nose to your lungs – is a common battleground for man versus virus. While we struggle with many illnesses on this front, influenza is one of the more aggressive illnesses. This is because, unlike other less potent viruses associated with the common cold, influenza gets into the blood stream, causing fever, body aches and cold shivers. It can sometimes even progress to become pneumonia.
As with most illnesses, prevention is the best cure. Flu responds well to vaccination, and while it’s not guaranteed to stop you getting the flu, it has been shown to reduce the severity and frequency of flu.
2. Who should be vaccinated?
Certain people are considered high risk and it is, therefore, strongly advisable that they get vaccinated.
• Children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years old
• Pregnant women
• All persons 65 years of age or older
• Persons with chronic medical conditions such as chronic lung and heart disease, chronic kidney disease, diabetes and similar metabolic disorders, HIV-infected persons, etc.
• Persons who come into regular contact with people who suffer from the chronic medical conditions listed above. For example, if one of your family members who live with you has lung disease, all healthy persons in the house should be vaccinated.
• Healthcare workers responsible for higher risk patients
3. Does the flu shot give you the flu?
Because the vaccine doesn’t contain any live virus, it is impossible to get flu from the vaccine.
4. Is it safe?
Being vaccinated against flu is a very safe procedure, with the benefits (in the groups of people outlined above) clearly outweighing any potential risks. Although the vaccine doesn’t give you the flu, your immune system will respond to the immunization, and there is a possibility that you will develop a low-grade fever, but this is usually mild.
Severe allergic reactions to the vaccine have been reported, but these are extremely rare. This, however, is why vaccinations should be administered in a medical facility.
5. What are some other ways to protect yourself against the flu?
• Eat fresh fruit and veggies
• Get more sleep if you’re feeling run down
• Avoid contact with those who have flu
• Regularly wash your hands
• If you’re sick, stay away from others to prevent the flu from spreading
Get the shot.
We highly recommend a flu vaccination. Most medical aids and hospital plans offer free flu vaccinations to their members, so check with your medical aid if they offer this benefit.