It’s that time of year again when colds and flus seem to be spreading like wild fire. We thought we would be able to put your minds at rest by answering some common questions:
What is ‘the flu” and are there any risks?
Flu or influenza is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. The virus is responsible for major outbreaks of respiratory illness around the world and is more commonly seen in the winter months. Influenza can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis especially in those people who are more susceptible to catching the virus such as the elderly or people whose immune system may not be strong enough to fight off the illness.
Generally it is spread from person to person through what is known as “droplet spread” which refers to an infected person coughing, sneezing or through touching someone or an object.
Who’s at risk?
Other than the people mentioned above, pregnant women in their second and third trimester (4-9 months of pregnancy) are at greater risk of severe illness from flu as their immunity is naturally lower than usual meaning they don’t have the resources to fight off an illness before it gets too severe.
Flu is also dangerous for elderly people and very young children. Babies are at higher risk of more severe influenza which can develop into lower respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia. In fact, infants less than six months of age are up to 10 times more likely to require hospitalization because of influenza than older children.
Is it safe for me to get the flu vaccine if I am having fertility treatment or pregnant?
The answer is Yes.
The flu vaccine can be given safely to women planning to have a baby or at any stage of pregnancy. Immunising against flu has been shown to benefit both mother and baby as antibodies that protect against the illness are transferred across the placenta, giving the baby protection for up to six months after birth.
The influenza vaccine has been safely used in women trying to conceive and in pregnant women for many years and there is no evidence of harmful effects on the baby.
There are many different flu strains that emerge each year so scientists are always developing vaccines against influenza however not every vaccine will cover all strains of flu.
What else can I do to reduce my chances of getting flu?
Because the illness is spread by droplets, good general hygiene practices can help you avoid contracting the flu. These include:
- Washing your hands regularly, especially after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
- Covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing, use disposable tissues and throwing them away immediately after use;
- Keep away from people you know have influenza; and
- Avoid crowded places where there may be other people sick with flu.
- Applying hand sanitation or washing hands after touching surfaces that many others would have touched such as hand rails, toilet doors.
To find out more about getting your flu vaccination please speak to your GP.