Cold or flu?
Helen O’Callaghan on getting kids vaccinated for influenza
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.
SAFETY FIRST: In Britain children are vaccinated against the flu up to age five.