We all get coughs and colds over the winter months, but Influenza (aka ‘Flu’) can really spoil your Christmas break. The saying goes that you can differentiate between Flu and a simple cold by the infamous £50 flu test…
‘If there was a £50 note on the floor, would you get out of bed to fetch it?
If you would then you have a cold, if you wouldn’t then you have Flu!’
Influenza is characterised by the sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, muscle pain, and extreme fatigue. Other common symptoms include diarrhoea and vomiting, a dry cough, sore throat, and runny or stuffy nose. For otherwise healthy individuals, influenza is an unpleasant but usually self-limiting disease with recovery typically within 2 to 7 days. Symptoms in children can last up to 2 weeks.
Transmission is by droplets, aerosol, or through direct contact with respiratory secretions of someone with the infection. Influenza spreads rapidly, especially in closed communities. Most cases in the UK tend to occur during an 8 to 10-week period during the winter.
Flu can be more severe in certain people such as those who are elderly, pregnant, have reduced immunity or those with an underlying health condition. Anyone in these risk groups is more likely to develop complications of flu, such as pneumonia (a lung infection), so it’s recommended that they have a flu vaccine every year to protect them.
The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to anyone with a serious long term health condition as listed below:
- chronic (long-term) respiratory disease, such as asthma (that requires inhaled or tablet steroid treatment or has led to hospital admission in the past), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or chronic bronchitis
- chronic heart disease
- chronic kidney disease
- chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
- chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease or motor neurone disease
- problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease, or if you have had your spleen removed
- a weakened immune system due to conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or as a result of medication such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
If you don’t qualify under these criteria you can still seek a private flu jab via many of your local pharmacies.
Studies have shown that the flu jab definitely works and will help prevent you getting the flu. However, it won’t stop all flu viruses, so it’s not a 100% guarantee that you’ll be flu-free. The vaccine stimulates your body’s immune system to make antibodies to attack the flu virus. If you catch the flu virus after you’ve had the vaccination, your immune system will recognise it and immediately produce antibodies to fight it.
So, if your eligible then call the office at the Students’ Health Service and get booked in for your free flu immunisation, and have a Very Happy (and Flu free) Christmas!