With a significant increase in reported cases of flu, pharmacists are advising that it is not too late to get the flu vaccination and are especially urging those in at-risk categories to get vaccinated. Latest reports confirm that flu rates have increased considerably over the last few weeks, from 20.5 per 100,000 of the population to 32.4 per 100,000 of the population. There have also been worrying reports of an increase in flu-related deaths over the last number of weeks and a confirmed case of the H1N1 flu virus.
Pharmacist Eamonn Brady from Whelehans pharmacy in Mullingar says "Flu is an extremely contagious respiratory illness and can be quite serious, occasionally even fatal, particularly for patients with serious health conditions. Flu symptoms can include a fever, runny nose and sore throat, severe headaches, dry coughs and chest pains.”
He continues "The flu vaccination is the best way to reduce the chances of catching flu and spreading it to others. GPs and pharmacists strongly encourage people, especially at-risk patients, which include elderly people, pregnant women and people with chronic illnesses, to visit their local GP surgery or pharmacy to get the flu vaccine. It is not too late. The service is available free of charge from GP and pharmacists to those in at-risk categories who hold a medical card.
It is estimated that there are around one million at-risk people in Ireland, yet only half a million are typically vaccinated.
Top five tips for the winter season
The top tips from pharmacists this winter are:
2. Wash your Hands – Wash your hands regularly to eliminate the spread of germs. Use warm water and soap and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Rinse well and dry your hands with a clean or disposable towel.
3. Keep a Healthy Lifestyle – Getting adequate sleep, good nutrition and physical exercise can help ensure your immune system is in good condition and ready to fight infection if it occurs.
4. Control Stress - People experiencing stress tend to have weakened immune systems and are more likely to catch a cold. Try and keep calm and factor in relaxation time into your busy schedule
5. Treat Cold and Flu Appropriately – The common cold and sore throats are generally caused by viruses and will ultimately clear up on their own; antibiotics are not effective against them. Your local pharmacist can advise on appropriate medications to relieve your symptoms.