Marianne Frederick, who is deputy chairman of the City Corporation’s health and wellbeing board, writes about how to beat the flu and how doing so can help relieve the NHS.
The temperature has dropped and the balmy summer days are a distant memory. With the colder weather comes the dreaded flu season and the seemingly-endless coughs, colds and sneezing fits.
Every winter we see tabloid headlines about the NHS’s imminent crisis, and while this may be scaremongering – they say that boring news doesn’t sell – the NHS does treat many more patients during the colder months.
Last winter, the most challenging days for A&E were immediately after Christmas and New Year, and after the Beast from the East later in the season. Last winter also saw the worst flu outbreak in seven years.
There are many ways that City residents and workers can stay healthy and manage their own symptoms and conditions before they get worse. This helps the individual themselves, as well as helping the NHS.
For example, people who are eligible for a free flu jab should get one by visiting their GP surgery, local pharmacy, or midwifery service.
- Those who can receive a flu jab on the NHS include people aged 65 and over; children aged two and three, and those in reception class and school Years 1 to 5; those with main carer responsibilities; and people with serious long-term conditions, including chronic lung, kidney or heart conditions, or a weakened immune system.
It’s free because it’s essential to protect their health. The list of conditions eligible for a free flu jab isn’t exhaustive and a GP can advise on whether it is necessary. The jab is free for expectant mothers, too. Flu is a significant cause of illness in pregnant women and those commuting on crowded public transport are more likely to be exposed to the flu infection.
Even those who are generally healthy should consider getting a flu jab this winter. These are low-cost, widely available, and can be done in a matter of minutes. For the more organised, slots can be pre-booked. Easier still are flu jabs offered by employers within the workplace, which are usually free of charge and don’t require leaving the office. Employers offering this service are savvy – they know it’s important to look after their staff.
It’s cheaper and less time-consuming to protect their employees all winter than to foot any costs relating to sickness absence and presenteeism.
There is a myth that getting the flu vaccine can bring about flu. While it may cause some soreness in the arm, or a slight temperature and aching muscles, the vaccine contains inactivated flu viruses, so it’s not possible to develop flu from the jab alone.
Flu is highly infectious and can spread easily, so it’s important to wash hands regularly with soap – especially after travelling on public transport.
Disinfect surfaces often and stay at home if experiencing symptoms. Contrary to popular belief, taking daily vitamin C supplements can’t keep the flu at bay.
Taking simple steps to protect your own health – such as exercising regularly and eating a healthy and balanced diet – and using basic remedies if you start to feel unwell can save you an arduous trip to A&E this winter.
This is the premise of the NHS and Public Health England’s ‘Stay Well this Winter’ campaign, whose adverts will be broadcast through a range of channels nationally over the coming months.