Get ready for the flu season
As the weather is cooling down, we can expect an increase in the number of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) The majority of those infections are causes by Influenza.
“ You never forget the flu, it can hit quickly and last for a few weeks, meaning time off work or school and staying away from family and friends. “
What is influenza (flu)?
Influenza isn’t like the common cold; it is a highly contagious viral infection that can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications, including pneumonia.
The flu virus is found in almost invisible little droplets from saliva, sneezes, coughs and runny noses. The virus can travel up to two metres and live on surfaces for up to 48 hours and is spread when people touch an infected surface.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of the flu are the sudden appearance of a high fever (38°C or more), a dry cough, body aches (especially in the head, lower back and legs) and feeling extremely weak and tired (and not wanting to get out of bed).
Symptoms of the flu hit very quickly and may last for weeks. A bout of the flu typically follows this pattern:
- Days 1–3: Sudden appearance of fever, headache, muscle pain and weakness, dry cough, sore throat and sometimes a stuffy nose.
- Day 4: Fever and muscle aches decrease. Hoarse, dry or sore throat, cough and possible mild chest discomfort become more noticeable. You may feel tired or flat.
- Day 8: Symptoms usually improve. Cough and tiredness may last one to two weeks or more.
The flu doesn’t discriminate, and anyone can be affected, that’s why it is so important that everyone in the community protects themselves against the flu this season and takes some easy steps to help stop the spread of the flu.
How can the flu illness be treated?
The best things you can do to look after yourself if you have the flu are:
- Rest – you will probably feel very weak and tired until your temperature returns to normal (about three days) and resting will provide comfort and allow your body to use its energy to fight the infection.
- Stay at home – stay away from work or school and avoid contact with others as much as possible while the infection is contagious. The period during which adults are contagious is usually around 3–5 days from when the first symptoms appear, and up to 7 days in younger children.
- Drink plenty of fluids – extra fluids are needed to replace those lost because of the fever (through sweating). If your urine is dark, you need to drink more. Try to drink a glass of fluids, such as water, every hour while you are awake.
There are prescription medications called “antiviral drugs” that can be used to treat flu illness. Antiviral drugs are not sold over-the-counter. You can only get them if you have a prescription from a health care provider. Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics, which fight against bacterial infections.
Check with your health care provider promptly if you are at high risk of serious flu complications and you get flu symptoms
Helping stop the spread of flu is simple
Your best possible protection is with the flu shot
What are some key reasons to get a flu vaccine?
The flu isn’t like the common cold. It can have serious and devastating outcomes. Each year the flu affects thousands of Victorians and puts an enormous amount of pressure on our hospitals and health system. Over 3,500 avoidable deaths occur in Australia every year from complications of seasonal flu, including pneumonia. For pregnant women, the flu shot helps protect them from flu illness and hospitalisation. The flu shot also helps protect the baby from flu for several months after birth, before the baby can be vaccinated.
The flu can be particularly severe in people with existing medical conditions, older people and young children. Flu vaccination is an important preventive measure for these groups. If you are in an at-risk group, make sure you get your flu shot. While some people who get vaccinated still get sick, having the flu shot can help reduce the severity of the illness.
Why is it important to get a flu vaccine every year?
Flu viruses are constantly changing, so flu vaccines may be updated from one season to the next to protect against the viruses that research suggests will be common during the upcoming flu season. Even if you had the flu shot last year, it’s important that you get it every year to make sure you’re protected for when flu season hits.
Who is eligible for free flu vaccinations?
All Victorians six months or older are encouraged to get an annual flu shot. If you haven’t had your flu shot this year, it’s not too late.
However, some groups in our community are more vulnerable to the flu virus and can also suffer more serious complications from the flu and are eligible for free influenza vaccination.
All Victorians over aged 65 and over are eligible for a free flu shot that is specially formulated and gives them increased protection.
In Victoria, children aged six months to under five years can get a free flu shot.
Pregnant women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and anyone with a chronic condition or weakened immune system are also eligible for a free flu vaccine.
Is the flu vaccine safe?
Vaccination is one of the most effective ways to prevent disease worldwide.
The flu shot is safe and effective and doesn’t contain any live virus, so it can’t give you the flu.
Some people may have had the experience of ‘flu-like symptoms’ with a previous flu shot. These may be mild reactions to the vaccine, or a different cold virus or (unluckily) they might have already been incubating flu when they got their shot. The vaccine gives protection about two weeks after the shot.
When and where to get vaccinated?
It’s never too late to be vaccinated as the flu can spread all year round.
The flu shot is now available from your local GP and community immunisation sessions.
Many of our pharmacies are also able to provide the flu shot to people over 16 years of age, as well as being able to provide advice about the virus.
Many organisations also provide free influenza vaccination sessions for their staff.
Better Health Medical Centre have started giving flu vaccines to our patients, our Fluvax appointments are bulk billed.