The NHS offers free annual vaccinations to those at risk and to people who work with them, such as health and social care workers and carers. If you don’t fall into one of these groups, you can pay for the jab yourself. Some employers also offer their staff free vaccination, as research has shown that this can substantially reduce sick leave during the winter months.
A different flu each year
It takes about two weeks before the flu jab is fully effective, and it works for about six months. Because the peak season for flu is between December and March, the best time to be vaccinated is between mid-November and mid-December. If you belong to a high-risk group, we strongly advise you to do this every year. The virus changes from year to year, and so the vaccine is also reformulated to deal with the strain(s) currently doing the rounds.
Reducing your chance of infection
The best way to reduce your chance of infection is to make sure you have a strong immune system. And that comes from eating healthily, taking plenty of exercise and making sure you get a full night’s sleep.
You should also try to avoid coming into contact with the virus.
Follow these five tips to reduce the risk of contact with flu.
1. Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water
2. Touch your mouth, nose and eyes as little as possible
3. Regularly clean ‘shared’ surfaces like door handles, bannisters and TV remote controls, and avoid touching them with your bare hands
4. Properly ventilate living rooms and bedrooms
5. Always cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
Most people with flu recover at home within a week. There’s usually no need to see your GP.
1. Rest until the infection has run its full course
2. If you have a fever, keep yourself warm and avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of water
Certain medicines may relieve your symptoms:
1. Paracetamol eases fever
2. Antiviral drugs like oseltamivir and zanamivir shorten the time you’re ill, reduce the risk of complications and also make you less contagious for other people. They are only available on prescription and have to be taken within 48 hours of the first symptoms of flu appearing
When to see your GP
You should contact your GP if:
1. You are in one of the high-risk groups
2. Your fever persists for more than five days
3. You feel constantly drowsy
4. You are short of breath
5. Your child is aged under two and has flu or is older than two and the fever persists for more than three days