Your must do’s to avoid catching the FLU!

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Rebecca, Pharmacist Castletroy

It’s that time of year again, kids are gone back to school, the days are becoming colder, the evenings shorter and we’ve the winter season of illnesses ahead. Whether it’s the (slightly suspicious) man-flu or the extremely more serious swine and bird flu’s seen in recent years, nobody wants to contract the flu, whatever strains are in circulation. So what exactly is flu and can we do anything to avoid it?

Flu is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus that affects all age groups. Flu symptoms can range in severity from mild/moderate to severe and even fatal. They can include sudden fever, chills, cough, headache, tiredness, aching muscles and joint pain, sore throat, vomiting and diarrhoea, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. For most, it leads to 3-4 days miserable in bed and up to a further week recovering. Unfortunately some more at-risk patients can develop bacterial chest infection complications leading to pneumonia that can occasionally be fatal. Between 200 to 500 people, mainly elderly, die from the flu and flu-related illnesses in Ireland each year.

How can we avoid it or reduce the spread of it?

  1. Get ourselves vaccinated every year in our local pharmacy or GP surgery (keep reading for more on this).
  2. Wash our hands vigorously for 15 seconds with soap and warm water or alcohol based hand cleaners.
  3. Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze ideally using a disposable tissue.
  4. Avoid close contact especially in crowded public places or wear a mask!
  5. Get regular exercise. Research has shown that those who exercise 4 to 5 times per week are less likely to contract the flu.

The flu virus changes and mutates rapidly and so, a new version of the flu vaccine is offered in Ireland every year. Each version normally protects against the three strains of flu predicted to be most prevalent in the forthcoming winter season. The HSE and Healthcare professionals urge people in at-risk groups to get vaccinated each year. This includes:

  •  people aged 65 and older
  •  patients with long-term medical conditions a such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes, liver, kidney or neurological disease
  •  people with a body mass index (BMI) over 40
  •  those with an impaired immune system due to disease or medication including all cancer patients
  •  pregnant women at any stage in pregnancy
  •  those residing in nursing homes and other long stay institutions
  •  health care workers and carers
  •  people with regular close contact with poultry, water fowl or pigs.

The vaccine works by stimulating our immune system to produce antibodies to the flu virus. If exposed to the flu, these antibodies attack the virus. Because it takes time for our immune system to produce these antibodies, it is generally two weeks before the vaccine starts to work. The vaccine cannot cause the flu as it contains killed or inactivated viruses. The most common side effects of the vaccine are mild and can include soreness, redness or swelling where the injection was given. Headache, fever, aches and tiredness may occur.

The vaccine is free to all those in the at-risk groups. The consultation by the pharmacist or doctor is free for those with a medical card or GP visit card. Pharmacists and doctors charge a consultation fee to those without a medical or GP visit card.

Many LloydsPharmacies up and down the country from Donegal to Cork offer the flu vaccination to anyone over the age of 18 wishing to avail of it. Please phone or call in to your local LloydsPharmacy for any information on the flu vaccine or to make an appointment in a participating store to be vaccinated by one of our expert LloydsPharmacy Pharmacists.

Flu Vaccination 2014/2015

fluThis is LloydsPharmacy’s third year offering the Influenza vaccine service to our customers. Customers choose to be vaccinated for many reasons:

  • They may have previously contracted the flu virus and know how debilitating and unpleasant it can be to suffer from the flu. These patients chose vaccination In order to  avoid experiencing this illness again.
  • They fall into the ‘at risk’ groups and wish to avoid complications in their health that influenza can bring on.
  • They have a work responsibility, family member or care for someone who would suffer if the virus was passed to them.

The Influenza vaccination at LloydsPharmacy is free for some patients or may cost €15 – €20 depending on your eligibility. The vaccine only takes 15 minutes to deliver and is suitable for anyone over the age of 18 pending approval from your local LloydsPharmacy pharmacist who will assess your suitability.

This year’s seasonal flu vaccine contains the 3 most prevalent strains of flu viruses as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).​

Influenza is not a recent development in our history. The name “influenza” originated in 15th century Italy, from an epidemic attributed to the “influence of the stars”. The pandemic of “Spanish” influenza in 1918 caused an estimated 21 million deaths worldwide.

Influenza is an acute illness of the respiratory tract. It affects all age groups and is characterised by the abrupt onset of fever, headache, muscle pain, cough, sore throat and malaise. Influenza viruses spread in tiny droplets caused by coughing and sneezing. They usually spread from person to person. Sometimes, however, people become infected by touching something that was recently contaminated with the virus and then touching their mouth or nose. Most adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before they show symptoms and up to five days after becoming sick.  It lasts from three to five days and can be followed by fatigue for two or three weeks.

Minor changes in the virus are seen from season to season which is why the vaccine composition changes each year and why vaccination each year is recommended.

The seasonal influenza vaccine is recommended for:

  • Persons aged 65 and over.
  • Those with a long-term medical condition such as diabetes, heart or lung disease.
  • People whose immune system is impaired due to disease or treatment.
  • Persons with a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 40.
  • Pregnant women (can be given at any stage of pregnancy)​ Residents of nursing homes and other long stay institution.
  • Healthcare workers Carers.
  • People with regular close contact with poultry, water fowl or pigs.

It takes two weeks to develop immunity to the influenza virus parts present in the vaccine. Serious side effects of the flu vaccine are uncommon. Side effects of the injection vaccine include soreness at the site of the injection, muscle aching, fever, and feeling unwell. Paracetamol can be taken to reduce any of these mild side effects although you can consult the pharmacist for advice on any issues you may encounter.

The following is a list of the Lloydspharmacy stores providing the vaccination service this year. Where possible please book your vaccination ahead of time by phone or calling into your chosen store.

LloydsPharmacy Northside S.C.

LloydsPharmacy Fairgreen Mullingar

LloydsPharmacy Raheny

LloydsPharmacy Lucan

LloydsPharmacy Blanchardstown S.C.

LloydsPharmacy The Mill S.C.

LloydsPharmacy Newbridge S.C.

LloydsPharmacy Crumlin Rd

LloydsPharmacy Longford S.C.

LloydsPharmacy Clonskeagh

LloydsPharmacy Blackrock S.C.

LloydsPharmacy Wicklow

LloydsPharmacy Knocklyon S.C.

LloydsPharmacy Rathmines

LloydsPharmacy Greystones

LloydsPharmacy Shankill

LloydsPharmacy Donnybrook

LloydsPharmacy Rosslare Harbour

LloydsPharmacy Governy Square Carlow

LloydsPharmacy William St. Limerick

LloydsPharmacy Laois S.C.

LloydsPharmacy Dungarvan

LloydsPharmacy Skycourt

LloydsPharmacy Grand Parade

LloydsPharmacy Castletroy