It’s that time of year again, Flu season is approaching!

This is when Practice nurses spend a lot of time trying to persuade people to have their flu jab. You are eligible for a free flu jab from the NHS if you are:
1) over the age of 65
2) pregnant
3) children and adults with an underlying health condition (particularly long-term heart or respiratory disease)
4) children and adults with weakened immune systems

Now, you may be one of the many who line up at the flu clinic, keen to have the vaccine, worried that we may run out! Or you may be sceptical about having it. Either way, I hope to convince you to come forward for a flu jab by dispelling a few myths.

Every year the WHO decides which strains of the flu virus we need to be protected against. This depends on what virus’ have been circulating in the Southern Hemisphere during the winter season as this is most likely to head our way. This year the strains are:
H1N1 – the strain of flu that caused the swine flu pandemic in 2009
H3N2 – a strain of flu that can infect birds and mammals and was active in 2011
B/Massachusetts/2 – a strain of flu that was active in 2012

The content changes every year which is why you need to have a flu jab each year.

The flu jab is a dead vaccine so it CANNOT give you flu, despite many people claiming that they have caught flu from having it. However it doesn’t guarantee 100% protection, but if you do go on to catch flu it will usually be shorter lived and less serious. The most likely after effects are tenderness over the injection site and possibly cold symptoms that last a couple of days. But most people feel nothing.

It takes one chicken’s egg to grow each vaccine – it is grown on chicken protein! That’s a lot of eggs for the whole of the UK! If you are genuinely allergic to eggs – for example you never eat cake – then you may have to have a different flu jab not grown on eggs. Flu is spread by tiny droplets of saliva spread by an infected person sneezing and coughing and the droplet being breathed in or picked up by touching surfaces where the droplets have landed. We can all help to prevent the spread of flu by covering our mouth and nose when we cough and sneeze. Also by washing our hands frequently or by using hand gel.

But the best way to avoid getting flu is by having your flu jab in October when it will be available at your GP surgery.

Wendy King