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It’s that time of year again (I know, it’s come around far too fast!), when letters about the flu jab are sent to those who may be vulnerable, encouraging them to visit their local GP surgery to receive the Flu jab. But what exactly is it, and why is it important?

The importance of the flue jab lies in the fact that for those who are considered vulnerable (over 65’s, pregnant women, those with poor immune systems and those with underlying health conditions), the vaccine can be the difference between life and death, quite literally.

The flu, for those who aren’t in a vulnerable category, will usually last around a week and include symptoms ranging from a fever and fatigue right through to diarrhoea and loss of appetite. After the initial week of illness, symptoms should usually clear, however many people still feel tired for a week or so afterwards.

That doesn’t sound too drastic, so why are vulnerable people encouraged to get the vaccination? It’s not the actually flu itself which can be so deadly to vulnerable individuals, but the complications that can happen as a result of contracting the illness.

One of the most common complications that can arise from having the flu is a chest infection, particularly bronchitis, and in serious cases this can develop into pneumonia. Fortunately, antibiotics are well adapted to tackle chest infections and pneumonia in most cases, however these can occasionally develop into serious, life-threatening conditions, particularly in the older, infirm population.

Other serious complications can arise from those who have pre-existing conditions prior to contracting the flu, and means that they should take greater care in monitoring their conditions whilst they have the flu, but ideally, they’ll have followed advice and received the vaccination.

Asthmatics and individuals who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, may find that their symptoms get significantly worse when having the flu, and find they need to closely monitor their condition whilst they’re ill.

For diabetics, having the flu can alter blood sugar levels, increasing the potential risk of hyperglycaemia and diabetic ketoacidosis (a condition caused by a lack of insulin in the body, significantly dangerous to type 1 diabetics).

Pregnant women may put their baby at risk by contracting flu, as well as risking the chances of having a premature labour.

The flu jab is important, even if you aren’t included in the high risk groups, as flu is easily spread to those around you. Whether it’s in work, college, outside in the high street or even at home, any person that we come in contact with may have a condition which places them into a vulnerable group, and may of not had the vaccination themselves.

For more information on your eligibility for a free flu vaccination click here.

To find out more about potential complications of having the flu, click here.