If you’re a carer, you need the flu jab

As a carer for someone else, it can be easy to overlook your own health.  Flu can knock even the healthiest people off their feet for a couple of weeks, making it impossible for a carer to look after the person in their care. This is why the NHS offers a free flu vaccination for those either in receipt of a carers’ allowance and/or are the main ‘informal’ carer for an elderly, disabled person, or somebody who lives with a serious long term condition.

It’s not just about protecting you as a carer from getting flu, but also preventing you from passing the virus onto the vulnerable person you care for.

Flu is a highly infectious disease which is easily spread from one person to another. Getting flu when you already have a long-term condition can lead to serious complications, and it can even be a killer.

For those who already have a long term health condition, are pregnant or are over 65, it can be even more dangerous as your body will struggle more to fight off the illness and you are more at risk of complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia. Children are also more at risk.

Getting flu could make you and your partner, relative or friend seriously ill.

There are a lot of myths about flu that have circulated over the years. Many people worry that the vaccine can give you the flu. Please be assured that this isn’t possible as there is no live influenza virus in the vaccine.

Unlike other medication for long term conditions, the flu jab is an annual one-off vaccine.  The flu vaccine changes every year to fight the latest strains of flu, so even if you had a jab last winter you need another one this year to stay flu safe.

If you become ill with flu you may not be able to care for the person or people you look after. Please take the time to look after yourself and have the flu jab.

FAQs

1. Who is eligible?

If you look after a friend or relative who can’t get by without your help, you will be eligible for the flu vaccine for FREE.

2. When to have the Flu Vaccine?

The best time to have a flu vaccine is in the autumn, from the beginning of October, but don’t worry if you’ve missed it then, you can have the vaccine later in winter. Ask your GP or pharmacist.

3. Where can I get vaccinated?

You can have your free flu jab at your GP surgery or participating pharmacy from October each year. Ask your GP when they are running clinics, or your local pharmacy if they are offering this service.

4. Who should seek advice before having the jab?

If you have had a previous allergic reaction to a flu vaccination or you have a hen’s egg allergy you should seek advice before having the flu jab.

5. What side effects may I experience?

After the flu jab you may get a mild fever and slight muscle aches for a day or so.

If you have a sore arm after the vaccination, try these tips to ease the discomfort:

  • continue to move your arm regularly – don’t let it get stiff and sore
  • take a painkiller, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen – pregnant women shouldn’t take ibuprofen unless a doctor recommends and prescribes it. Do not give aspirin to children under 16

Serious allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) to flu vaccines are very rare. Healthcare staff giving vaccinations are fully trained to deal with anaphylaxis and, with prompt treatment, individuals make a quick and complete recovery.

Contact a pharmacist or your GP if you experience severe side effects that are not improving over time.

For more information visit the NHS choices website:  http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vaccinations/Pages/flu-influenza-vaccine.aspx