YOUR HEALTH Beat flu with a vaccine
Protect yourself and your family against flu this winter by getting the flu vaccine
FLU or influenza is a viral illness that occurs mainly in the winter months. The influenza viruses can infect the nose, throat, sinuses, upper airways and lungs. In healthy children, young adults and middle aged people, the disease is mostly mild.
Flu can however be life-threatening in older people, babies, toddlers and people of any age who have underlying conditions.
According to the University of Witwatersrand, influenza kills between 6 000 and 11 000 South Africans every year. About half of these deaths are the elderly and about 30 percent are people living with HIV.
WHY YOU SHOULD GET A FLU VACCINE
Vaccines can protect you and your family as flu can sometimes be life-threatening. Flu complications can be serious and include pneumonia and the worsening of existing heart problems.
Flu viruses change frequently and when they change, the previous vaccine is no longer effective. Because of this, the content of the vaccine is changed each year, which means the content of the flu vaccine is also different each year.
For full protection, you need to receive a dose of the vaccine before the flu outbreak. It takes your body two weeks to develop antibodies against the flu vaccine.
WHEN TO GET THE FLU VACCINE
During the flu season, about 14 percent of patients are hospitalised for pneumonia and a quarter of patients with flu-like symptoms test positive for flu. The best time to get the flu vaccine is ideally between March and June before the flu season starts and before the virus spreads or as soon as the vaccine becomes available (mid-March).
However, if you missed this period, the vaccine can still be taken at any time during the winter season as long as you haven’t been infected. Studies support the safety of annual vaccination in children and adults.
WHO SHOULD GET IT
Anyone wishing to reduce the risk of getting flu or spreading it to others should consider the vaccine.
Mostly pregnant women, people with chronic illnesses like diabetes, lung disease and heart disease, HIV infected people and those who suffer from tuberculosis are at increased risk of hospitalisation and death from flu infections.
In addition, adults and children, health workers, residents of old-age homes, chronic care and rehabilitation institutions in close contact with compromised individuals are at risk of severe flu.
WHO CAN’T GET A FLU VACCINE
There are several circumstances where a person should not have the flu vaccination.
Those who can't get the vaccine include children younger than six months and those who have had severe allergic reactions to a flu vaccination in the past. People who have severe allergies to eggs and those who previously experienced the following after the vaccination should not get the vaccine: Difficulty breathing Drop in blood pressure Loss of sensation in the feet or any condition that requires hospitalisation
You and your family can get the vaccine at the pharmacy, clinic or from your doctor.
Boitumelo Ntsoane is a qualified pharmacist and businesswoman. She holds a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree from Rhodes University, a certificate in Business Management from the University of North West, and was part of the Goldman Sachs-GIBS 10 000 Women Certificate Programme