As the weather starts to cool down each year, thoughts turn to the flu season. While getting vaccinated is a great place to start for fighting the flu, there are some other ways you can protect yourself and others.
The Australian Government recommends everyone aged six months and over should get the flu shot if they wish to protect themselves against the flu. Getting a flu shot also means you help to protect those more vulnerable, such as babies, those over 65 years and pregnant women. For those caring for elderly loved ones, the flu shot is definitely a good idea.
The Federal Government’s National Immunisation Program offers free flu vaccines to those most at risk. These include:
- People aged 65 years and older.
- Pregnant women (at any stage of pregnancy).
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months to five years.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and older.
- People aged six months and over with medical conditions that mean they have a higher risk of getting serious disease. Such as, diabetes, severe asthma, lung or heart disease.
The best time to get the flu jab, each year, according to the Australian Medical Association is towards the end of April into the beginning of May. This is to help ensure that it protects you through to August and September. Many people can succumb to the flu when the virus mutates and the flu shot has worn off those who received their shot too early.
Does the flu vaccine totally protect me against the flu?
The flu vaccine doesn’t offer complete protection, but is 60 to 70 percent effective at protecting healthy adults against the flu. In older people or those with impaired immunity, the vaccine is less effective.
What are other ways to stop the spread of the flu?
Given that the vaccinations don’t offer complete protection from the flu, it’s important to protect yourself and others by taking some simple hygiene and health measures to help in fighting the flu. These include:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water often. Thorough hand washing involves five steps: wet, lather, scrub, rinse and dry.
- Use hand sanitiser, with a 70% or higher alcohol content.
- Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough by raising your arm and sneezing into the crook of your elbow. You should practice this rather than coughing or sneezing into your hands.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Use tissues rather than handkerchiefs and throw them into the garbage right away.
- Clean frequently-touched items and surfaces with soap and water.
- Eat a healthy diet, get enough rest and make exercise a regular part of your life.
What should I do to protect others if I am sick?
If you do happen to get sick, it’s important you protect those around you by staying at home and away from others. Avoid close contact with others until 24 hours after your fever is gone. If you need to go out, such as to a doctor’s appointment or pharmacy, make sure you wear a face mask.