The flu vaccine is a great way to protect against the most common strains of flu. Contrary to popular opinion, the flu vaccine cannot give you flu as it doesn’t contain the active virus needed to do this.
The flu vaccine is available free on the NHS to people who are at a higher risk of developing complications, and those that work with them:
- Pregnant women.
- Children aged two and three.
- Children aged 2-18 with a long-term health condition.
- Adults aged 65 or older.
- People with a serious medical condition.
- Healthcare workers or carers.
- People living in a residential or nursing home.
If you are in one of these groups, you should seriously consider getting your vaccination as complications of flu can be very serious, or even deadly. Even if you have had a vaccination previously, you should get yourself vaccinated every year as the vaccine changes to protect against the most common strains of flu in that year.
The flu vaccine is available from October each year. It is better to get it at the start of the flu season, however you can still get it done later if there are stocks still available.
If you would like the flu jab but are not eligible for it free on the NHS, check with your local pharmacy as most pharmacies offer the flu vaccination for a small charge.
As with all vaccinations and medications, there is a small risk of side effects, although with the flu jab, this is unusual. You may, however, experience mild fever and slight muscle aches for a day or so. If you have a sore arm after the vaccination, these tips may help to ease the pain:
- Continue to move your arm regularly – don’t let it get stiff and sore
- Use a heat pack or warm compress on the area
- Use an ice pack on the area if it becomes hot and sore – do not apply ice directly to your skin, wrap it in a towel first
- Take a painkiller, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Do not give aspirin to children under 16 years.
Serious allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) to flu vaccines are very rare. Health care staff giving vaccinations are fully trained to deal with anaphylaxis and, with prompt treatment, individuals make a quick and complete recovery.
Contact a pharmacist or your GP if you experience severe side effects that are not improving over time.