This page explains how you can help protect yourself against flu this coming winter
Flu occurs every year, usually in the winter (seasonal flu). It’s a highly infectious disease with symptoms that come on very quickly. Colds are less serious and usually start gradually with a stuffy, runny nose and a sore throat. A bad bout of flu is much worse than a heavy cold.
The most common symptoms of flu are fever, headache, extreme tiredness, general aches and pains, plus joint and muscle pain. Healthy individuals usually recover within two to seven days, but for some vulnerable individuals the disease can lead to hospitalisation.
What do I need to do now?
Your organisation wishes to protect their employees against flu and have made arrangements for the vaccinations to be given through their occupational health provider, Collingwood Health.
The 2019/20 season offers 2 types of flu vaccine, the quadrivalent vaccine for those under 65 years and the adjuvanted trivalent vaccine for those over 65 years.
If you belong to one of the groups mentioned here, it’s important to have your flu vaccination and tell your GP that you have had it.
Who should have the flu vaccine?
Flu can affect anyone but if you have a long-term health condition the flu virus may mean you are more susceptible to secondary effects and complications, even if your long term condition is well managed and you normally feel well. You should have the flu vaccine if you are, or have:
- a heart problem
- chest complaint or breathing difficulties, e.g. bronchitis, emphysema or severe asthma
- kidney disease / liver disease
- lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (steroid medication, cancer treatment)
- stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
- neurological condition, e.g. multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy or learning disability
- Spleen conditions, e.g. sickle cell disease, or you have had your spleen removed
- are seriously overweight.
- aged 65 years or over (Trivalent vaccine)
- living in a residential or nursing home
- the main carer of an older or disabled person
- household contact of an immunocompromised person
If you are in one of the above groups you may have the vaccination at your GP Surgery. If you decide to have it as part of your workplace flu programme then please inform your GP.
Front-line health or social care workers are also entitled to the flu vaccine; your employer will usually provide this.
How does the flu vaccine work?
The vaccine stimulates your body’s immune system to make antibodies which attack the flu virus. If you’re exposed to the flu virus after you’ve had the vaccine, your immune system will recognise the virus and immediately produce antibodies to fight it. It may take 10 to 14 days for your immunity to build up fully after vaccination.
I think I’ve already had flu, do I need a vaccination?
Yes; other viruses can give you flu-like symptoms, or you may have had flu but there’s more than one type of flu virus, so you should still have the jab.
I had the flu vaccine last year, do I need it again this year?
Yes; each year the flu virus composition of the vaccine changes.
Who shouldn’t have the vaccination?
Almost everybody can have the vaccine, but you should not be vaccinated if you have ever had:
- A serious allergy to the vaccine, or any of its ingredients
- If you are allergic to eggs
- If you have a fever, the vaccination may be delayed until you are better
- You must not have the live flu vaccine if you have a condition that weakens your immune system (check with your Nurse / GP)
How long will I be protected for?
The vaccine should provide protection throughout the 2019/20 flu season.
Side effects of vaccination
1 to 10 people in 100 might experience the following:
Common side effects:
- Muscular aches and pains
- Joint aches and pains
- Shivering and fatigue
Common local reactions:
Your regular pain relief should be sufficient to reduce above symptoms and a cold compress to site will assist for local reactions. If any symptoms continue longer than 2 days or you are concerned please seek medical advice from your GP or by calling 111 or by visiting your local walk in centre.
Allergic reactions requiring immediate medical attention are:
- Swelling of face/neck
Reactions that may be related to the vaccine and will need further medical investigations are:
- Nerve root pain Loss of balance
- Loss of reflexes Convulsions
- Paralysis Limb weakness
- Swollen glands
Preventing the spread of flu
You can prevent catching the flu or spreading it to others with good hygiene measures.
Always wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water, as well as:
- regularly clean surfaces e.g. computer keyboard, telephone and door handles
- use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
- place used tissues in a bin immediately
You can also help stop the spread of flu by avoiding unnecessary contact with other people while you’re infectious. You should stay off work until you are feeling better.
If you have an underlying health condition you may be at risk of more serious flu. If unwell you must consult you GP as antiviral medication may be recommended.
How effective is the flu jab?
Flu vaccine is the best protection we have against an unpredictable virus that can cause unpleasant illness in children and severe illness and death among at-risk groups, including older people, pregnant women and those with an underlying medical health condition.
Studies have shown that the flu jab works and helps prevent flu. It won’t stop all flu viruses and the level of protection may vary between people, so it’s not a 100% guarantee, but if you do get flu it’s likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it would otherwise have been. The vaccine does not prevent colds, chest infections and other viral infections.
Locations for further reference and information
Your local GP