Seasonal flu (also known as influenza) is a highly infectious illness caused by the flu virus. The virus infects your lungs and upper airways, causing a sudden high temperature and general aches and pains, headache, weakness and exhaustion. Symptoms can last for up to one week. You may need to stay in bed until your symptoms get better. Flu affects people of all ages. In some people flu can cause serious complications such as pneumonia.
How can I care for someone with flu at home?
If you are at home with flu or taking care of someone at home, follow these tips to help stop the flu spreading to others:
- If you have the flu stay in one room with the door closed and, if possible, open a window for fresh air
- Family members should limit time spent with someone with flu and avoid sharing dishes, books, toys, etc
- Avoid face-to-face contact with someone who has the flu
- Discourage visits from people not living in the house
- If you have flu, cover your nose and mouth with disposable tissues when sneezing or coughing. If tissues are not available, coughing or sneezing into your arm or sleeve (not hand) is recommended
- Used tissues should be put into a bin and the bin sealed in the room and immediately taken outside for collection
- Wash hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub, especially after coughing and sneezing
- Everyone in the house should frequently clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub, especially after every contact with someone with flu or their room or bathroom
- Avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth with your hands as this helps spreads the flu virus
- Surfaces and items inside the house should be cleaned regularly with bleach-based household cleaners
How is Flu spread?
If you are carrying the virus, you can spread it by coughing or sneezing. This can happen from 1-2 days before symptoms develop and up to 5 days after symptoms develop. Flu can survive on worktops and objects, especially in low temperatures and low humidity. You can get flu by touching a surface with the virus on it and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose. The virus can live on a hard surface for up to 24 hours and a soft surface for around 20 minutes.
How Serious is Flu?
The Flu virus is an unpredictable virus. If you are healthy you will usually recover in 7 days. But Flu can be severe and can cause serious illness and death. Complications of flu include bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections and rarely acute encephalopathy (swelling of the brain). Serious complications of flu are more likely if you have a chronic medical condition or if you are aged 65 years or older. Pregnant women are also at increased risk of flu complications. In Ireland, between 200 and 500 people, mainly older people, die from flu each winter. Every year, around the world, flu causes between 3 and 5 million cases of severe disease and up to 646, 000 deaths.
The HSE are strongly urging people in at-risk groups to get the flu vaccine. It is strongly recommended the vaccine if you:
- are 65 years of age and over
- are pregnant
- are a child or adult with a long-term health condition
- work in healthcare
- are a carer or household contact of anyone at increased medical risk of flu
- live in a nursing home or other long-term care facility
- in regular contact with pigs, poultry or water fowl
You should not get the flu vaccine if you have had a severe allergic (anaphylaxis) reaction to a previous dose or any part of the vaccine. Don’t get the flu vaccine if you are taking medicines called combination checkpoint inhibitors (e.g. ipilimumab plus nivolumab). Vaccination should be re-scheduled if you have an acute illness with a temperature greater than 38°C.
The Flu Vaccine
The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the 4 strains of flu virus recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the strains most likely to be circulating this season. The flu viruses that are circulating change every year. This is why you need to get a new vaccine each year. People 10 years and over should get the vaccine from their GP or Pharmacist or Occupational Health Department. Younger children should get the vaccine from their GP. The flu vaccine is free if you are in an at-risk group but you may be charged a consultation fee, unless you have a medical card or a GP visit card. The flu vaccine doesn’t contain any live viruses – it cannot give you the flu.
How it works
The flu vaccine helps your immune system to produce antibodies to fight influenza virus. If you have been vaccinated and you come into contact with the virus, these antibodies will attack it and stop you from getting sick. The flu vaccine starts to work within two weeks.
The seasonal flu vaccine is available from October 2021 until the end of April 2022
Speak to your local Haven Pharmacist about the Flu Vaccine. You can make an appointment in selected Haven Pharmacy stores nationwide.
For more information about Flu and it’s symptoms check out the HSE website