Whilst the entire country’s focus – and that of the NHS – has been firmly on COVID-19 over the past five months, another significant pressure faced by the NHS is seasonal flu, and NHS Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is urging people to have a flu vaccine if they are eligible, to do their bit to help themselves and the NHS.
Given the risk of flu and COVID-19 co-circulating this winter, it is perhaps more important than it has ever been for people who are eligible to have a flu vaccine to ensure they get this critical cover, particularly for those who are considered vulnerable.
The flu vaccine reduces the risk of catching flu, as well as spreading it to others, and it is more effective to get the vaccine before the start of the flu season (December to March). Flu can cause severe illness and even death among vulnerable groups, as well as complications like bronchitis and pneumonia, so it is particularly important to have the flu vaccine, which is available free of charge on the NHS, if you:
- Are 65 years or over
- Are pregnant
- Have certain medical conditions
- Are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay facility
- Receive a carer’s allowance, or you are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
- Live with someone who’s at risk of coronavirus (on the NHS shielded patient list) or you expect to be with them on most days over winter
Later this year, the flu vaccine may also be given to 50-64 year olds – more information will be available in the autumn. However, if you are 50-64 and have certain medical condition and are classed as high risk, you should have the vaccine as soon as possible.
The flu vaccine is also available for children:
- Over the age of 6 months with a long-term health condition;
- Aged 2 and 3 years on 31 August 2020 (i.e. born between 1 September 2016 and 31 August 2018);
- In primary school;
- Children in year 7 (secondary school)
“Flu is unpredictable and can be unpleasant, and symptoms come on very quickly and include a sudden fever – a temperature of 38C or above, an aching body, feeling tired or exhausted, a dry cough, a sore throat, a headache, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, diarrhea or tummy pain, feeling sick and being sick,” explains Dr Dave Baker, GP and South West Lincolnshire Locality Lead, Lincolnshire CCG.
Children experience similar symptoms, but can also get pain in their ear, and appear less active.
“The good news is it you can often treat the flu yourself, without seeing a GP, and you should begin to feel better in about a week. To treat flu yourself and get better more quickly, you need to get rest and sleep, keep warm, take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower your temperature and treat aches and pains, and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration (your pee should be light yellow or clear),” adds Dr Baker.
“Your local pharmacist can give treatment advice and recommend flu remedies, although be careful not to use flu remedies if you’re taking paracetamol or ibuprofen, as it’s easy to take more than the recommended dose. Also, do not go to your pharmacy if you have a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this could be coronavirus, and you should ask someone to go for you if you can.”
If you think you have coronavirus, use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service.