It’s flu vaccine time again! In this month’s blog, we breakdown some common questions and concerns about the flu shot and where to go to get yours.
What is the flu?
The flu, also known as influenza, is a virus that changes every year. Influenza can be caused by different strains of the influenza virus and can be spread very quickly from person to person via coughing and sneezing. The flu virus effects your nose, throat and lungs and is generally worse than a cold.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
Symptoms of the flu include fever (38°C or higher), chills, muscle aches, a runny nose, a cough, shortness of breath and stomach upsets.
Anyone can catch the flu, but it can be especially dangerous for vulnerable people such as those who are pregnant, elderly, people with health conditions and babies (especially those under 6 months old).
Everyone over 6 months of age can get immunised against the flu.
How can I defend myself from catching the flu this winter?
Your best defense against the flu is to get your annual flu shot and follow basic hygiene practices.
More information about the flu vaccine is below. Here is a refresher on good basic hygiene practices to keep you safe this winter:
- Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, and then dry them for 20 seconds (you could also use an alcohol-based hand rub as an alternative)
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Don’t share drinks
- Avoid crowded places
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze (then ensure you dispose of your tissue in a lined bin)
What does the flu vaccine protect you from?
Your annual flu shot means you have the best protection against catching the flu this winter. Each year the flu vaccine is altered to cover the most popular strains of the virus. It’s important to get the flu shot as even fit and healthy people can get really sick if they catch the flu.
Are there any side effects when getting the flu vaccine?
The good news is that only about 1-in-1-million people will experience a serious allergic reaction to the flu vaccine – so it’s extremely rare. It’s because of this that vaccinators will ask you to wait up to 20 minutes after immunisation as this type of reaction normally happens quickly.
For most people who get the flu vaccine, you will feel completely fine or will only suffer minor side effects. These minor side effects are commonly a slight fever and/or pain or swelling where the needle went in. If you do suffer any side effects, you are likely to get them in the first few days of getting your shot.
Sometimes, people to suffer from other side effects such as irritability, a loss of appetite, aches and pains, or a headache. If you aren’t feeling well after getting your flu shot, you can refer to this Health NZ guide on treating immunisation side effects, or please call Healthline on 0800 611 116.
Where can I get a flu shot?
Great work on deciding to get your flu shot and protecting yourself, your whānau and your friends! It’s easy to book in your flu shot – you can:
- Pop into a local pharmacy that is offering flu vaccinations – check out Health Point to find one near you.
- Book your flu shot online, or over the phone (with translation services available)
You can also use this opportunity to get a COVID-19 booster shot if you need it.
If you have kids between the ages of 6 months to 12 years old, are aged over 65, are pregnant, have underlying health conditions or are Māori or Pacifika and aged over 55 – the flu vaccine is free!
Sources used to write this blog:
- Influenza, Manatu Hauora/Ministry of Health: Influenza | Ministry of Health NZ
- Flu (influenza) vaccine, Immunise: Flu (influenza) vaccine | NZ immunisations | Te Whatu Ora – Health NZ (immunise.health.nz)