With the warm sunny weather still around its hard to believe it, but autumn has arrived here in Australia. The days are gradually getting shorter, and the temperatures are slowly going to get cooler as winter approaches….and with winter comes flu season.
While 2018 was a comparatively mild season, 2017 saw one of the worst flu seasons in Australia since the pandemic in 2009. The 2017 season saw a total of 233,453 reported cases of influenza, with 745 reported deaths. Already this year (as of the 18th of March), there have been a total of 17,005 reported cases of laboratory confirmed influenza in Australia!
So should you get a vaccine to help protect you from getting the flu???
WHAT IS THE FLU?
Influenza, more commonly known as the flu, is a highly contagious virus which infects the upper airways and lungs. It is not the same as the common cold, and can be a very serious illness….especially for at risk individuals like the elderly and young children. Infection can often require hospitalisation, and as shown with the statistics above, can sometimes result in death.
Symptoms of the flu include:
- sore throat
- dry cough
- muscle and joint pain
- tiredness or extreme exhaustion
Treatment of the flu requires lots of bed rest, drinking plenty of water and medications to help relieve symptoms. Antibiotics do not help treat the flu, but some antivirals are available which can shorten the duration of the flu…but only if started within 48 hours of symptoms first appearing.
ARE FIT INDIVIDUALS LESS LIKELY TO CATCH THE FLU?
Just because you are fit and healthy, it doesn’t mean you are immune to catching viruses like the flu.
While moderate exercise is thought to help improve your immune system, those who train for extended periods and push their bodies with exercise on a regular basis can actually have a slightly weaker immune response. Constantly pushing your limits causes stress on your body and means it is always trying to rest and recover…….you may actually be more susceptible to infection!
WHAT IS THE FLU VACCINE?
The flu vaccination is a yearly injection given to help the body develop an immune response, in order to prepare it to fight any possible infection from influenza.
Currently, the flu vaccine is designed to protect against the four most common strains of influenza which are found in Australia. Common side effects of receiving a flu vaccination are a mild temperature and tiredness for around 24 hours, as well as some muscle tenderness (especially around the injection site). A few people experience nausea and vomiting; and a small number of people can have allergic reactions to the vaccine.
CAN YOU GET THE FLU FROM THE VACCINE?
The flu vaccine contains a small amount of the flu virus in order to produce an immune response…..but the virus is killed then chopped up first (only a portion of the actual virus is used). You are not actually being injected with a live virus. So no, you will not catch the flu from the vaccine.
However, if you already have a slight infection of another type, this can worsen. As your immune system is responding to the injection, it is a little bit weaker for a couple of days…meaning if you are exposed to another type of viral or bacterial infection, you might get sick.
For this reason, it is best to get the vaccine when you are feeling healthy….if you are a bit run down or feeling unwell, wait until you are feeling better first.
ITS NOT JUST ABOUT YOU
While you may think that you don’t need to worry about the flu, what about the people around you? Elderly family? Young children? Mates who have asthma? A friend who is pregnant?
Amongst others, these people are all “at risk” individuals. Catching the flu can cause major health problems for some people….so getting a vaccine yourself reduces the risk of your loved ones catching it.
CAN YOU DEVELOP AUTISM FROM A FLU VACCINE?
No. Don’t be silly.
WILL IT AFFECT YOUR TRAINING?
Usually its a good idea to take it easy for about 24 hours after receiving a flu vaccine. So if you are planning on getting one, do it when you know you have a recovery or rest session the following day.
SHOULD YOU GET A VACCINE?
There is no reason not to. Getting a vaccine will help protect you against catching the flu over the cooler months, and keep you fit and healthy so you can continue with the sport you love!