Preparing for the Flu season
What is flu?
Influenza (“flu”) is a very contagious disease that spreads around the world every winter, usually between October and May in the Northern Hemisphere and May to October in the Southern. Flu is caused by influenza viruses, and is spread mainly by coughing, sneezing, and close contact. Anyone can get flu. Symptoms come on suddenly and may last several days. They can include:
- sore throat
- muscle aches
- runny or stuffy nose
Flu can make some people much sicker than others. These people include young children, seniors 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions - such as heart, lung or kidney disease, nervous system disorders, or a weak immune system. Flu vaccination is especially important for these people, and anyone in close contact with them. Flu can also lead to pneumonia, and make existing medical conditions worse. It can cause diarrhea and seizures in children. Flu is not the same as a common cold. Each year thousands of people globally die from flu, and many more are hospitalized.
Why should I get vaccinated?
Flu vaccine is the best protection against flu and its complications. Flu vaccine also helps prevent spreading flu from person to person.
What happens at the vaccination clinic?
You will have to speak to your doctor to get vaccinated. They will check your suitability for the vaccine and ensure it is safe for you to receive it. The vaccine is 0.5ml and goes into your upper arm as an injection. You only need one dose (some children under 9 years of age might need 2). You will be asked to wait 10 minutes after the vaccine and then can leave.
8 Common Myths about flu and the flu vaccine:
1. Having flu is just like having a heavy cold
A bad bout of flu is much worse than a heavy cold. Flu symptoms come on suddenly and sometimes severely. They include fever, chills, headaches and aching muscles, as well as a cough and sore throat. So, you’re likely to spend two or three days in bed. If you get complications caused by flu, you could become seriously ill and have to go to hospital.
2. Having the flu vaccine gives you flu
No, it doesn’t. The injected flu vaccine that is given to adults contains inactivated flu viruses, so it cannot give you flu. Your arm may feel a bit sore where you were injected, and some people get a slight temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days afterwards, but other reactions are very rare. The children’s flu nasal spray vaccine contains live but weakened flu viruses that will not give your child flu.
3. Flu can be treated with antibiotics
No, it can’t. Viruses cause flu and antibiotics only work against bacteria. You may be prescribed antiviral medicines to treat your flu. Antivirals do not cure flu but they can make you less infectious to others and can reduce the length of time that you may be ill. To be effective, antivirals have to be given within a day or two of your symptoms appearing. A bacterial infection may occur as a result of having the flu, in which case you may be given antibiotics.
4. Once you’ve had the flu vaccine, you’re protected for life
No, you aren’t. The viruses that cause flu can change every year, so you need a vaccination each year that matches the new viruses. The vaccine usually provides protection for the duration of the flu season that year.
5. I’m pregnant, so I shouldn’t have the flu jab because it will affect my baby
You should have the vaccine whatever stage of pregnancy you are in. If you’re pregnant, you could get very ill if you get flu, which could also be bad for your baby. Having the jab can also protect your baby against flu after they’re born and during the early months of life. Speak to your doctor if you are unsure.
6. I’ve had the flu already this autumn, so I don’t need the vaccination this year
You do need it if you’re in one of the risk groups mentioned above. As flu is caused by several viruses, you will only be protected by the immunity you developed naturally against one of them. You could go on to catch another strain, so it’s recommended you have the jab even if you’ve recently had flu. Also, what you thought was flu could have been something else.
7. If I missed having the flu jab in October, it’s too late to have it later in the year
No, it’s not too late. It’s better to have the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available, but it’s always worth getting vaccinated before flu comes around. Since we don’t know when flu will strike, the sooner you have the vaccine the better.
8. Vitamin C can prevent flu
No, it can’t. Many people think that taking daily vitamin C supplements will stop them getting flu, but there’s no evidence to prove this.
What to do now:
Please arrange an appointment at one of the many flu vaccine clinics operating in Government hospitals between October to December. The Iranian Hospital in Dubai runs the clinic all year round. Encourage others to have the vaccine, particularly if they are in the at risk group. You can also buy one at our pharmacy and take it to your family physician.