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Friday 29 September 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland
# happy christmas to flu
From vaccines to sneezing etiquette: Here’s how to get through the flu season
Did you know that you can get the flu vaccine in some pharmacies for as little as €20

A BRIEFING BY the HSE yesterday showed that at the end of last week, the flu rate spiked to nearly twice the baseline threshold for assessing influenza activity.

Three people have died from flu this year.

The winter ‘cold and flu’ season comes as health professionals, scientists and public health representatives warn the public of the threat of antibiotic resistance, and so it’s important that people have the right information to maintain their health.

Here’s some advice from the medical profession and the HSE.

The flu vaccine

As the flu is a virus, antibiotics won’t do anything to treat it. In fact, there’s no way to cure or treat viruses with medication other than to rest and to drink plenty of fluids.

The vaccine helps your immune system to produce antibodies to fight the 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.

Getting the flu vaccine is the best protection against the flu. You need to get a new flu vaccine every year to ensure you’re protected, because the flu develops into a different strain. 

The HSE has urged people in high-risk groups to get vaccinated against the virus if they have not done so already - this at-risk group is anyone over 65, women who are pregnant, people with a long term medical condition like COPD, cancer patients, carers and healthcare workers.

There’s also a group that shouldn’t get the flu vaccine if they’re at risk, so check here if you’re on that list.

The vaccine is free if you’re in the at-risk group, and costs a GP consultation fee if you’re not.

As well as being available from your GP clinic, you can also get it at some pharmacies or your Occupational Health Department. Pharmacies can charge as little as €20 to administer the flu vaccine to non-medical card holders. 

The vaccine takes two weeks to take effect after it is received, so the earlier you get it, the better (it’s recommended that you get it in October).

The flu season starts at the beginning of October and lasts until the end of April.

Do I have a cold or a flu?

If you have the flu: You’ll experience the symptoms within a couple of hours. These include a high temperature, sore muscles, dry cough, headache and sore throat.

If you have a cold: You’ll experience symptoms more gradually, and these include a runny nose and a temperature. 

As Dr Vida Hamilton told last year, over-the-counter medicines like cough syrup, Lemsip and painkillers like Panadol don’t help get rid of your cold or flu – they just help with relieving the symptoms. 

“If they help you that’s fine. But if they don’t give you any symptom relief, don’t waste your money,” she said.

She also said that handwashing can go a long way to prevent you from getting a winter illness. 

Viruses can live for days on surfaces, and our hands then bring the bugs to our faces, which can lead to winter vomiting or flu. Every time you wash your hands you protect yourself.

The official HSE advice on how to look after yourself and stop the flu from spreading is:

  • Stay at home if you can, rest, drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter remedies like paracetamol to ease symptoms;
  • Use a tissue and place it immediately in the bin. Wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve.
  • Don’t cough or sneeze into your hands as this spreads germs to everything you touch.

The HSE has a dedicated self-care website which provides tips and advice in relation to common winter illnesses, including flu.

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