Choosing to have the influenza vaccination is probably one of the more effective preventative measures that you can take to protect yourself in the upcoming winter season. We look at the benefits to protecting yourself and how you can minimise the side effects that may occur.
The flu vaccine is available for free on the NHS for certain groups of people, including the over 65’s. The best time of the year to have the flu vaccination is in the autumn from the beginning of October to early November. Most GP surgeries arrange flu vaccination clinics around this time. It’s free and is effective against the latest flu virus strains.
Some community pharmacies now offer flu vaccination on the NHS to adults at risk of flu including pregnant women, people aged 65 and over, people with long-term health conditions and carers.
If you have your flu jab at a pharmacy, you don’t have to inform your GP – it is up to the pharmacist to do that.
A common misconception is that once you’ve been immunised one year, you won’t have to have the flu jab the following year. This is incorrect. The viruses that cause flu can change every year, so you need a vaccination each year that matches the new viruses. The vaccine usually provides protection for the duration of the flu season that year.
The flu jab doesn’t usually cause side effects. However, you may experience mild fever and slight muscle aches for a day or so.
If you have a sore arm after the vaccination, try these tips 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
Many people complain that they get the flu after they have the flu jab. However the flu jab cannot cause flu because there are no active viruses in the vaccine. If you have what you think is flu after the vaccination, it may be that you have caught a flu-like virus that isn’t really flu, or you may have caught flu before your flu vaccination had taken effect.
No vaccine is 100% effective, however, people who have had the flu jab are less likely to get flu. If you do get flu despite having the jab, it will probably be milder than if you haven’t been vaccinated. Serious allergic reactions to flu vaccines are very rare. Healthcare staff giving vaccinations are fully trained to deal with anaphylaxis and, with prompt treatment, individuals make a quick and complete recovery.
Visit your GP to discuss the best options for you. And please do contact a pharmacist or your GP if you experience severe side effects that are not improving over time, after you have your flu jab.