Cold or flu?

He­len O’Cal­laghan on get­ting kids vac­ci­nated for in­fluenza

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Ageing With Attitude -

Did you know that there are over 200 forms of cold virus and that most adults in Ire­land have two to four colds a year? A cold usu­ally starts grad­u­ally with a sore throat and a blocked or a runny nose and symp­toms are gen­er­ally mild, in com­par­i­son to get­ting its nas­tier cousin, the flu. Boots has launched a cam­paign to raise aware­ness about the dif­fer­ence be­tween the com­mon cold and the more se­ri­ous vi­ral in­fec­tion and to avail of its in-store flu vac­ci­na­tion ser­vice. The main dif­fer­ence be­tween a cold and flu is that the symp­toms of in­fluenza come on rapidly and are ac­com­pa­nied by mus­cle aches, a high fever, headache, ex­treme ex­haus­tion and weak­ness. Call to a Boots phar­ma­cist for more in­for­ma­tion on the Boots Win­ter Flu Vac­ci­na­tion ser­vice or book your ap­point­ment on­line at www.boots.ie/flu

MORE chil­dren than usual got flu last year. This is be­cause the pre­dom­i­nant flu virus cir­cu­lat­ing, at 6065%, was in­fluenza B.

“In­fluenza B in­fects ev­ery­body but it tends to dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fect chil­dren and ado­les­cents. We saw more chil­dren in­fected last year than we’d or­di­nar­ily ex­pect,” says Dr Cil­lian De Gas­cun, con­sul­tant vi­rol­o­gist and lab­o­ra­tory di­rec­tor at UCD Na­tional Virus Ref­er­ence Lab­o­ra­tory.

A pre­dom­i­nant in­fluenza B sea­son doesn’t strike ev­ery year. “The last big one was 2012/13 and last year it pre­dom­i­nated again,” says Dr De Gas­cun, adding that be­cause it’s rarer, chil­dren haven’t built up as much in­fluenza B im­mu­nity.

Chil­dren, mix­ing closely in schools and crèches and rarely hav­ing scrupu­lous hy­giene prac­tices, can get ev­ery­thing that’s go­ing. “They [rep­re­sent] a reser­voir of in­fec­tion, trans­mit­ting it to play­mates and bring­ing it back home to par­ents and grand­par­ents.”

It’s for this rea­son Bri­tain vac­ci­nates chil­dren up to age five. “They’ve found def­i­nite ben­e­fit. They’re rec­om­mend­ing ul­ti­mately that all chil­dren aged from two years to 17 should get it.”

Dr De Gas­cun be­lieves the idea’s be­ing looked at here but there are cost im­pli­ca­tions. “The gen­eral con­sen­sus from a sci­en­tific per­spec­tive is it would be ben­e­fi­cial.”

There’s not much in­fluenza ac­tiv­ity cir­cu­lat­ing in Ire­land. “We’re wait­ing to see which types will pre­dom­i­nate and what the pat­tern of cir­cu­lat­ing strains will be. So it’s a good time to get the vac­cine as it takes about two weeks to take ef­fect.”

Get­ting vac­ci­nated cuts risk of get­ting flu by up to 60%. Over 65s, preg­nant women and those with long-term health con­di­tions are at greater risk of de­vel­op­ing com­pli­ca­tions from flu and are rec­om­mended to get the vac­cine at this time of year.

Mean­while, Boots Ire­land is cam­paign­ing to raise aware­ness about the dif­fer­ence be­tween flu and a cold. Flu’s a far more se­ri­ous vi­ral in­fec­tion and re­sults in deaths/ hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tions . The main symp­tom dif­fer­ence be­tween the com­mon cold and flu is that in­fluenza symp­toms come on rapidly and are ac­com­pa­nied by mus­cle aches and high fever. Other symp­toms in­clude headache, ex­treme ex­haus­tion, fa­tigue/weak­ness that can last up to three weeks.

A cold usu­ally starts grad­u­ally with sore throat and blocked or runny nose. Symp­toms are gen­er­ally mild com­pared to flu. There are over 200 forms of cold virus – most adults get two to four a year; chil­dren six to 10.

Boots has a flu vac­ci­na­tion ser­vice avail­able. Visit www.boots.ie/flu.

Pic­ture:iS­tock

SAFETY FIRST: In Bri­tain chil­dren are vac­ci­nated against the flu up to age five.

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