Health officials are urging people to act now to protect themselves and their loved ones against flu this winter.
Eligible groups, such as the over 50s, pregnant women and those with serious health conditions are being encouraged to take up the offer of a free NHS flu vaccine as soon as possible.
There has been a significant increase in flu cases across our region over the last fortnight and this is likely to spread further between now and the festive period. Local hospitals are also seeing a high number of patients, of varying ages, being admitted with flu.
For most people, flu is a very unpleasant illness that can knock even the most healthy of us off our feet. For more vulnerable people, it can cause serious and life-threatening complications.
“Flu isn’t just a bad cold,” explained Professor Derek Ward, Director of Public Health for Northern Lincolnshire. “While most people get better on their own with rest, keeping warm and drinking plenty of fluids, they’re still likely to experience a few days of unpleasant symptoms such as a high temperature, head and body aches, difficulty sleeping and exhaustion. This is not something people would want to experience, especially over the festive period. GPs do not recommend antibiotics for flu because they will not relieve your symptoms or speed up your recovery.”
If you feel unwell with flu, it is advised you rest, keep warm, take ibuprofen or paracetamol to lower your temperature and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. People are also being asked to keep indoor rooms well ventilated if possible, without making them too cold.
A pharmacist can give treatment advice and recommend flu remedies. Call a pharmacy or contact them online before going in person. You can get medicines delivered or ask someone to collect them for you.
Professor Derek Ward continued: “There is also the chance of passing flu on to someone who isn’t in good health and this could cause them real problems. Many people need to go into hospital due to flu and sadly some will die. Flu can also cause real difficulties for hospital services, closing wards and causing operations and other treatments to be cancelled.”
To reduce the risk of spreading flu:
- Have the flu jab as soon as possible (available free to certain groups via the NHS and for anyone – for a small fee – at their local pharmacy)
- wash your hands often with warm water and soap
- cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
- bin used tissues as quickly as possible
- try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people if you have a high temperature or you do not feel well enough to do your normal activities.
Flu vaccines are safe and effective. They’re offered every year on the NHS to help protect people at risk of flu and its complications. The vaccine is free for frontline NHS staff and care staff who are not offered it by their employer.
A free flu vaccine is given to adults who:
- are 50 and over (including those who will be 50 by 31 March 2023)
- have certain health conditions
- are pregnant
- are in long-stay residential care
- receive a carer’s allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get sick
- live with someone who is more likely to get a severe infection due to a weakened immune system, such as someone living with HIV, someone who has had a transplant, or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
You can have an NHS flu vaccine at:
- your GP surgery
- a pharmacy offering the service (if you’re aged 18 or over)
- some maternity services if you’re pregnant
- Sometimes, you may be offered a flu vaccine at a hospital appointment.
Flu is very infectious and easily spread to other people. You’re more likely to give it to others during the first five days of symptoms. Flu is spread by germs from coughs and sneezes, which can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours.
Professor Ward added: “Members of the public have helped reduce the spread of respiratory illness and saved countless lives over the past two years by following precautions – and we thank them for that. This winter, we all need to keep this up.”
School-aged children will be offered a vaccine at school or a community clinic. The children’s nasal spray flu vaccine is given to:
- children aged 2 or 3 on 31 August 2022 (born between 1 September 2018 and 31 August 2020)
- all primary school children
- some secondary school children
- children aged 2 to 17 with certain health conditions
Babies and children aged 6 months to 2 years with certain health conditions will be offered a flu vaccine injection instead of the nasal spray.
Children are very good at spreading flu. Vaccinating your child will not only protect them against flu, but will reduce its transmission to others and, therefore, protect your family, friends and vulnerable members of your community.