Seasonal Flu Vaccine

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As we enter the colder months of the year, it’s important to stay strong and healthy. One way we can help our older loved one through the winter, is by ensuring they’ve got their seasonal flu vaccine.

What is influenza (seasonal flu)?

Influenza is an infectious respiratory illness. It can affect people of all ages, but those over 65 are more at risk of contracting the illness, and of the symptoms worsening as their immune system isn’t as strong as it used to be. In some cases, it can be life-threatening.

What is the seasonal flu vaccine?

The vaccine is a preventative measure against influenza. 3 common flu virus strains are injected into the patient to help them create antibodies to protect themselves from the virus. These antibodies then attack the virus if the person comes into contact with it.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that the most effective way of preventing the illness is through annual vaccination. The flu virus changes every year, so annual vaccination is necessary to keep yourself protected year after year.

It’s recommended by the HSE to get the vaccine in September or October. It can take up to 2 weeks for it to begin working.

WHO states that although vaccination may not entirely prevent the onset of the illness among older people, it will help to lessen the severity of possible complications. If you’re the primary carer of your older relative, it’s also recommended that you get yourself vaccinated too.

Are there any side effects to the vaccine?

The virus strains injected are inactivated and so the vaccine itself does not cause influenza. However, there may be some mild side effects, including: Redness and swelling at the injection site Headache Mild fever Aches Tiredness

These vaccines have been used for over 60 years by millions of people worldwide and are considered very safe.

Who should get vaccinated?

Seasonal flu can affect people of all ages, but vaccination is strongly recommended by the HSE for the following groups of people: Those who are 65 and over Those with long-term health conditions, such as: Chronic heart disease, liver disease and renal failure Chronic respiratory disease Diabetes mellitus Down syndrome Haemoglobinopathies Those with a BMI of over 40 Immunosuppression caused by disease or treatment, such as cancer patients Residents of a Nursing Home or other long-term stay facility Carers Healthcare workers Pregnant women

For more detailed information on the HSE’s recommendations, just click here.

How do I get the vaccine?

To get vaccinated, you should contact your local GP or pharmacist. If you have a medical card or a GP visit card, the vaccine and the GP consultation are both free.

If you don’t have a medical card or GP visit card the vaccination is still free, but you’ll have to pay for the GP consultation.

Influenza Symptoms

If you are worried that your loved one may have contracted seasonal flu, then look out for these common symptoms which occur in the patient suddenly: Sudden onset of fever A dry cough Muscle and joint aches Fatigue Headache Runny nose Sore throat

For those with a strong immune system, the symptoms of influenza will normally begin to lessen after about a week. However, for the ageing population, the virus can be fatal. In some cases, it can lead to pneumonia bronchitis or even death.

Do be aware that influenza symptoms can be similar to those of the common cold. However, in the case of a cold the onset of the symptoms is very gradual, usually starting out with a sore throat and a runny nose. Whereas flu symptoms come on all together very suddenly.

If you’re in any doubt, contact your GP and remember to get your appointment for the seasonal flu vaccine-prevention is key!

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