Fight the flu with the flu vaccine

Your strongest ally for facing the coming flu season is only a quick jab away.

15 April 2014
By Annie Brookstone

A moment of discomfort can save you from weeks of suffering – not to mention doctor’s bills, expensive medication and valuable work time lost. Yes, flu season is around the corner and seeing as there is no known cure, prevention certainly is your best bet. While a healthy lifestyle can go a long way towards boosting your immune system, often it isn’t enough. Fortunately there is a vaccine that can significantly improve your odds of avoiding flu this winter.

How does the flu vaccine work?

The influenza vaccination works by using inactivated viruses to prompt your immune system to produce antibodies (proteins that neutralise viruses). This means that by the time you’re exposed to the vicious live version of the virus, you have an army of soldiers ready to take it on.

“The flu vaccination campaign starts at the end of March. Remember that it takes two to three weeks for the antibodies to reach their full potency, so make sure to get vaccinated before the height of the flu season,” advises nursing sister Miranda van Zyl from Clicks Clinic in Cavendish, Cape Town.

And yes, you do have to get it every year because flu strains change annually and the vaccine is adjusted accordingly.

Who should get the flu jab?

As of 2013, the World Health Organization specifically recommends vaccination for:

  • Nursing-home residents (the elderly or disabled)
  • People with chronic medical conditions
  • Elderly individuals
  • Pregnant women
  • Healthcare workers, including those others with essential functions in society
  • Children from six to 24 months.

Does that mean if you don’t fit into any of these groups you can give it a miss? “Rather err on the side of caution and get it anyway,” says Cape Town GP, Dr Michelle Pentecost. “There have been reports of H1N1 (swine flu) coming out of North America and Europe, and this is a strain that is particularly debilitating – and has even proven deadly.”

While no vaccine is 100 percent effective, even if you do catch the flu, it’ll be short-lived and much less severe than if you opted not to get vaccinated. Sister Miranda adds that in babies from six months to 35 months, only a half dose is used, so they must be brought back four weeks later for another half dose.

And is there anyone who should avoid it?

It is not recommended in babies under six months or in anyone who has experienced a bad reaction to a previous flu vaccine – although this is very rare and side effects are usually mild to non-existent. Sister Miranda adds, “If you’re already showing symptoms of flu, such as a fever, rather wait for the symptoms to clear first and then give it two weeks before you come back. This is because the vaccine can make existing symptoms worse – rather wait until you’re healthy.”

Additionally, if you are allergic to eggs, you should rather not get vaccinated as the flu vaccine contains a small amount of egg proteins, caution Clicks pharmacists.

How Clicks Clinics can help you during the flu season

Book an appointment for a flu vaccination at a Clicks Clinic by calling 0860 254 257 or visiting Clicks Clinics online. The good news is that most medical aids now cover the flu vaccination and sometimes even reward members. 

Take note that the following people cannot get vaccinated:

  • Babies younger than 6 months
  • Anyone allergic to eggs
  • Anyone who already has a fever
  • Anyone who has shown a past reaction to a vaccine

IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com

 

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