The dangers of missing the flu vaccine

Make sure you get the flu vaccine
Make sure you get the flu vaccine

Flu is much worse than a bad cold. Even very healthy people can be left feeling unwell for months afterwards. A quick trip to your GP for this year’s vaccine is the best way to fend off the flu.

As an asthma sufferer, Nicola Kerr (45) from Bo’ness, receives the flu vaccine every year. But a missed vaccine in the winter of 2011 resulted in Nicola falling ill with the virus for six months.

“In the past, I have not allowed my condition to stop me doing the things I want to do,” says Nicola, who leads an active life and commutes to Edinburgh daily for work.

“In 2011, I did not make the time for the flu vaccine. I hadn’t been unwell with a bad cold or the flu for some years and naively thought I would not be affected by flu.

“Unfortunately I caught flu very severely. I woke up one morning in January with aching muscles and a high fever. I felt sick, dizzy and exhausted and immediately knew I was very unwell.

“The symptoms continued and I was bedridden for two weeks. When I didn’t get better, the doctor visited me at home. I was told to rest as much as possible and drink plenty of fluids.

“I could barely leave my bed and the flu virus continued to place extra pressure on my respiratory system. I suffered from sickness, extremely painful muscles and chronic fatigue. It really was an extremely distressing time for both me and my family.”

After about three months, Nicola’s symptoms started to improve but the impact of the virus continued to affect her.

Chest and ear infections were a recurring problem due to the respiratory issues caused by flu. “I was signed off work and it felt like I had lost months of my life,” she says.

“To put it bluntly, catching the flu had a very negative impact on my life,” Nicola explains.The free flu vaccine is available at GP surgeries and clinics across Scotland to protect people from the most common strains of flu circulating this winter.

It only takes a few seconds, takes around ten days to work and will help protect you from flu for about a year.

The annual flu vaccine programme

• Over the last five years, around 500 deaths have occurred each winter which can be related to flu.

• Underlying health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disorders, or heart and lung conditions can lead to serious complications if you catch flu.

• The immune system changes during pregnancy. Pregnant women can suffer serious health problems if they catch flu.

• Everyone aged 65 or over is entitled to the free flu vaccination and should speak to their GP or nurse about booking an appointment.

• NHS Scotland workers are encouraged to get the vaccine to help protect themselves, their friends and families, and their colleagues and patients.

• More information about the flu go to www.immunisationscotland.org.uk/flu or call NHS inform on 0800 22 44 88.