Why you should get your flu jab

Angelique Ruzicka investigates the reasons for getting the flu jab ahead of the winter season, looks at the cost of getting it done at some reputable pharmacy chains and asks whether ‘man flu’ exists.

Winter is coming and together with that a whole host of viruses and bacteria will be introduced into the environment, bound to make you sick and cause you to take time off work.

Commonly, people tend to get struck down by flu viruses. According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) the flu is quite simply a common infectious viral illness spread by coughs and sneezes which people generally take about a week to recover from. The main symptoms include: a high temperature (fever) of 38C or above, tiredness and weakness, a headache, general aches and pains and a dry, chesty cough. You could also experience cold-like symptoms such as a blocked or runny nose, sneezing and a sore throat.

According to Dr Kgosi Letlape, president of the Health Professions Council of South Africa, who talked to Cape Talk radio station colds and flu cost the economy of South Africa around R2 billion a year.

Getting vaccinated

One way to shield yourself against the flu is getting vaccinated. Anyone can get vaccinated, except for babies younger than six months and anyone who already has a fever, has shown a past reaction to a vaccine, or is allergic to eggs.

The flu vaccine is updated every year by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and incorporates some of the most severe or virulent flu strains that need to be warded off for the season. Flu vaccines are now available at over 195 Clicks Clinics nationwide as well as Dischem Pharmacy for R71.90 including VAT and R77.15 respectively.

If you don’t want to pay for it, the good news is that the majority of medical aids cover the cost of the flu vaccine for their members, although some schemes only cover individuals who might be at high risk for complications. These include the elderly, people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease, pregnant women, children aged six months upwards and people with lowered immunity due to HIV/TB or cancer therapy.  “Members of medical schemes can confirm eligibility with their medical aid or speak to a Clicks Pharmacist or Clinic sister for guidance,” says Clicks.

According to Clicks, vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the flu. “In South Africa, the best time to get your flu vaccine is before the end of April, before the flu season sets in.  The earlier the better, as it takes 10 to 12 days to build up your immunity,” says Waheed Abdurahman, Clicks Pharmacist. “However, if you have missed this window period, the vaccine can still be taken at any time during the winter season.”

Flu isn’t something to be taken lightly and brushed off. “Influenza is an acute and possibly deadly viral disease that almost always presents with a fever.  It may also be accompanied with an airway infection or even diarrhoea.  The clue here is acute onset, i.e. within hours.  A cold usually develops over the course of a few days and progressively gets worse,” warns Dr Yolande Louw, General Practitioner at Intercare Silver Lakes and member of South African Society of Travel Medicine & Federation of Infectious Diseases of South Africa.

Men should particularly make sure they get vaccinated as ‘man flu’ does apparently exist. “Studies done and published by Stanford University in 2013 found that men usually don’t have the same response to the flu vaccine than women, making them more prone to contracting flu. Due to a reaction with testosterone, they might also get worse symptoms if they do get influenza. In other words ladies: your big baby lying on the coach, moaning and groaning, feeling very sorry for himself might actually feel that way due to his very manly high testosterone levels.” says Dr Louw.

Prevention is better than finding a cure

Abdurahman recommends the following these health habits and tips:

  1. Wash your hands often or use a waterless hand sanitiser.
  2. Avoiding people who are sick and do not share personal items.
  3. Cover up when you cough or sneeze.
  4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle – A healthy diet and lifestyle helps keep your immune system in top shape and ready to fight the virus.
  5. Boost your immune system with natural medicines like echinacea or African potato extract, as well as multi-vitamins which include Vitamin C and D.

Where to get vaccinated

Clicks: Book an appointment by calling 0860-254-257 or visit www.clicks.co.za.

Dischem: Call the clinic team on 086 111 7427.