Dealing with the Flu

 In Health Information

Influenza is caused by a virus. Most people recover after a few days, but in some it can be life-threatening. To avoid influenza, have an annual influenza vaccination. If you have influenza, cover your coughs and sneezes, wash your hands before touching others, and stay at home.

What is influenza?

Influenza (or ‘the flu’) is caused by infection with influenza viruses A , B and rarely C. It mainly affects the throat and lungs, but can also cause problems with the heart and rest of the body, especially in people with other health problems. Influenza viruses regularly changes, causing epidemics each winter in NSW. Every few decades a new type of influenza virus will emerge causing a severe and widespread epidemic (or pandemic).

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms usually occur one to three days after infection, and may include sudden onset of:

  • fever
  • headache
  • muscle and joint pain
  • sore throat
  • cough
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • severe tiredness

Most people recover within a week. Compared with many other infections (like the common cold), influenza tends to cause more severe symptoms and complications. Complications can include pneumonia, heart failure, or worsening of other illnesses.

What can I do to prevent getting influenza?

  1. Good hygiene. Wash your hands before eating. Do not put your hands, or other commonly used objects, like pens, in your mouth.
  2. Look after yourself. Your immune system will function well with lots of sleep, little alcohol, fruit and vegies and not too much stress.
  3. It is ok to protect yourself. If you have the misfortune to get in an elevator, on a plane or sit next to at a doctor’s surgery a person who is coughing and sneezing, it is fine to cover your face and mouth with a handkerchief, move away from them, or use a mask. Masks can be obtained from pharmacies.
  4. Get vaccinated. Influenza vaccination is recommended for anyone over six months of age, who is at a higher risk of suffering complications of influenza. Adults who just don’t have the time or patience to have the flu are also invited to get a script, get a vaccination and avoid the flu!

Does the influenza vaccination give you influenza?

The influenza vaccination is not a live virus. It cannot make you infected with the influenza virus. You may feel like you are getting the flu in the days after getting it, with mild headaches, fever or sore throats, but this is usually very mild and passes quickly. This is just your body learning to be immune to the flu. It is not as bad as the real flu, as anyone who has had it in recent years can tell you!

Am I eligible for a government funded injection?

Ask your health professional, or see the link to the NSW influenza factsheet. Basically the government is providing the vaccination for those with a chronic illness or those aged 65 years and over. All others will require a script.

What is the procedure if I want an influenza vaccination and I am not eligible for a free vaccination?

You will need to see your doctor to get a script for the influenza vaccination. You will then need to go to the pharmacy to get a vaccination, and book in to one of our influenza vaccination clinics. If you cannot make the clinic, you can make an appointment with our nurses at a convenient time by calling the surgery. We are open Saturday morning and Wednesday evening too for working people.

I think I have the flu, what should I do?

  1. Stay at home until your fever has gone for 48 hours. No-one will thank you for spreading it around, and it will help you get better faster. If you come to the surgery, we will ask you to use a mask, and may ask you to sit in a private room until you are seen by our doctors. Our doctors and nurses may also use masks during influenza season, to protect them and stop the spread of influenza to vulnerable people.
  2. Take paracetamol or ibuprofen if you have a fever or muscle aches.
  3. Drink plenty of fluid.
  4. If you are producing coloured phlegm, or cannot take fluids, or otherwise feel you are going from bad to worse, you can make an appointment with your doctor. When you phone for the appointment, please let reception know you think you have influenza.
  5. If you have a chronic health condition, you may be particularly vulnerable to the affects of influenza. Please speak to your doctor before you get the flu, top make sure you have a management plan in place if you get ill. This particularly applies to people with respiratory diseases such as asthma or COPD.

I am pregnant, should I get the influenza vaccination?

Yes, it is advisable. The influenza vaccination can hit mothers and babies hard, so it is best to be protected.

What about influenza vaccination for children?

You may recall there was a great deal of publicity regarding influenza vaccination for children last year. A certain brand seemed to produce more fever and febrile convulsions. This brand is not being given to children. Children with a condition that makes them more vulnerable to the bad effects of influenza, such as children with diabetes or asthma, are being offered vaccines provided by the government. If your child is in this category, please call to make an appointment for their vaccination. If your child is well, there is no particular reason to give them the influenza vaccination. If your child does not have a chronic illness, and you would like them vaccinated, please speak to your doctor.

Children being vaccinated against influenza for the first time will require two shots 1 month apart. If your child has had the initial two shots in a previous flu season, they will only require one shot for immunity this year.

For more information, please call the surgery, or read the NSW Health Fact Sheet here.

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