Flu: Symptoms, Relief and Prevention
What is the flu?
Influenza, more commonly known as the flu, is a contagious health condition caused by the influenza virus. Each year, influenza and associated complications are estimated to be responsible for approximately 310,000 doctor visits.1 A flu vaccine is particularly important for young children, adults over 65 years and people with chronic health conditions.2 Sometimes people confuse the symptoms of the common cold with the flu. The flu virus infects the nose, throat and lungs, resulting in symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, and muscle and body aches. It can also lead to severe health complications.
What causes the flu?
The flu virus changes very quickly and each year new flu vaccines are released to keep up with the rapidly adapting flu virus.3 The virus is spread by infected people coughing or sneezing and can also easily spread by surfaces contaminated with cough and sneeze droplets. So, it’s easy to catch and spread, but hard to avoid.
Important information when getting a vaccination.
The following procedures have been implemented to help ensure the safety of both customers and staff throughout the vaccination process.
Customers are requested to:
- Sanitise your hands on arrival.
- Avoid queuing with other customers and maintain a 1.5m distance.
- Exit the clinic room following vaccination if you feel well enough to do so, but remain on the pharmacy premises for a 15 minute observation period.
In accordance with our infection control processes we will:
- Wash our hands before and after each customer, or as often as required.
- Wipe down all surfaces before and after each customer, or as often as required.
- Ask you for verbal consent only – we will not ask you to sign your consent.
Thank you for your co-operation
The first signs of the flu
Symptoms can usually appear about one to three days after catching the flu and can last for a week or more. Some of the symptoms of the common cold such as a runny nose, cough, sore throat and sneezing can also be seen when affected by the flu. But it is important to be mindful of other symptoms.
- Fever and chills
- Body aches
- Vomiting and diarrhoea – more common in children
Other symptoms to watch out for
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
The severity of symptoms is different for each individual and it is recommended you consult your doctor immediately should you experience any of the above symptoms.
How do you get relief from symptoms?
Your doctor will prescribe medications after a diagnosis and in some cases hospitalisation may be necessary. If your doctor prescribes an antiviral medication, it may assist with reducing the severity of your symptoms or length of illness, if taken within the first 48 hours. While treatment is not advised for a mild flu, which gets better on its own4, here are a few ways to get relief from symptoms.
- Resting and getting adequate sleep.
- Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, especially water.
- Eating a wide variety of food rich in vitamins and minerals to help boost your immune system.5
- Speaking to your local TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist for expert advice on managing your symptoms.
5 tips to help you prepare for the cold and flu season
Discover easy tips to help prepare yourself ahead of winter. Speak to your local pharmacist today for advice on building your immunity and booking your flu vaccination.
Find out more
Pain relief – Your local TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist may recommend pain relief medications, like paracetamol and ibuprofen, for body aches and pains and sore throat symptoms. Ensure you discuss your symptoms and any medical history in detail to help them determine if they are right for you. The dosage for children’s medications is based on age and weight of child; and must be given as per pharmacist’s advice only.
Nasal congestion – Having a blocked nose due to a cold or the flu, is a common frustration experienced by many. A wide variety of nasal sprays are available, ranging from simple saline sprays to those containing active ingredients. Speak to your local TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist who can help recommended a nasal spray that’s right for you.
Combination of cold and flu medications – Consult with your local TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist on combination medications that help manage a range of symptoms including headaches, fever, body aches, blocked or runny nose, sore throat and a chesty cough. It is important to make sure you don’t double up doses of other medications that you may be taking while taking a combination medicine.
Combination of cold and flu medications – Often people enquire about taking antibiotics to treat the flu. Antibiotics are not effective in treating a cold and the flu because these health conditions are caused by viral infections. Antibiotics are useful for helping to treat bacterial infections. Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your family at risk of developing resistance to the antibiotic.
Three things you might not know about flu vaccination
- There is no live virus in the flu vaccine, so you cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine.
- The composition of the flu vaccine changes every year to keep up with the constantly changing flu virus. This year, we are offering the quadrivalent flu vaccine, which protects against four of the most common strains.
- The flu vaccine is safe for pregnant women at all stages of their pregnancy.8
A flu vaccination can help to prevent the flu
A flu vaccination can help to protect you and your family from infection caused by the virus. The more people are vaccinated in the community, the less likely it is for the disease to spread. The most common strains of the influenza virus change every year and the flu vaccine also changes every year to match the strains.6
Who should get a flu vaccination?
While the flu can affect people of all ages, the people who are at highest risk of being hospitalised with flu are:
- People over 65 years
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin adults over 15 years
- Pregnant women
- People with weakened immune systems
- People who smoke
- People who haven’t been vaccinated against the flu
People with certain underlying health conditions are at greater risk of health complications from the flu.
- Heart conditions
- Severe asthma
- COPD and other lung conditions
- Diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2
- Kidney problems
- Impaired immunity such as HIV infection
- Malignant cancers
- Chronic neurological disorders
A flu vaccination is also recommended for residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities; along with primary carers of children, seniors and other people.
When should you get a flu vaccination?
We recommend getting a flu vaccination in Australia in April or May each year.6
Side effects of flu vaccination
Common side effects of the flu vaccination include redness and some pain at the site of the injection.7 This usually only lasts for about 24-48 hours. If it persists beyond that, speak to your local TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist for advice on using ice packs and mild pain relievers.
It is also common to experience some flu-like symptoms such as lethargy, mild headaches or low-grade fever. This does not mean the flu vaccine gave you the flu; but it is rather the immune system’s response to the virus in the vaccine.
Different types of flu vaccines
You may hear about multiple types of flu vaccines. The standard flu vaccine for most people for 2020 is a quadrivalent type, however there are specific vaccines for people over 65 years. These are formulated to provide better and increased protection for that age group. Your local TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist can help you with any questions that you may have.
What to look out for in children
Consult your doctor immediately if you are unsure about any of the above symptoms or observe your child suffering from the following symptoms:
- Breathing difficulties
- Stiff or swollen neck
- High fever
- Tender or enlarged neck glands
What will happen during my flu vaccination appointment?
During your appointment, a trained pharmacist or nurse provider will administer a flu vaccination. No prior prescription will be required, and appointments take only minutes.
You will be asked to complete a consent form and you may be asked some questions about your existing health and any previous reactions you may have had.
How long will it take?
Please arrive 5 minutes prior to your appointment and be aware you will need to remain in store for a further 15 minute observation period in the unlikely event of an adverse reaction.
Please note: Age restrictions apply and vary according to state – please confirm with your local store the minimum age we can vaccinate.
What can I expect after having the flu vaccination?
- You may feel sore, hot, itchy or red around the area where you have been injected.
- A small lump or bruise may develop at the injection site. This can last up to 14 days.
- Occasional side effects may include flu-like symptoms, soreness of joints, muscle tenderness and general weakness.
- You should contact a doctor if you feel unwell, itchy all over, faint or short of breath after your vaccination.
What is the flu?
Influenza is a viral infection, caused by influenza virus types A, B or C. The virus is transmitted by virus-containing aerosols produced by coughing, sneezing or by direct contact with respiratory secretions.
Immunisations should especially be considered for those in more high-risk groups.
Am I in a high-risk category to get the flu?
High-risk categories for the flu include:
- Young children
- The older demographic due to generally weaker immune systems
- Women who are pregnant
- People who have chronic medical conditions (asthma, heart disease, and more)
Additionally, if you work closely with anyone in the above high-risk categories, it is strongly recommended you get vaccinated as well.
Is the flu vaccination worth it?
Absolutely! Getting a flu vaccination is the best way you can avoid getting sick from it.
Why do I need to get vaccinated against the flu every year?
There are two main reasons for getting the flu vaccination annually:
- As the virus is constantly changing, getting vaccinated from the flu every year means you’re best protected against the most recent and common circulating strains.
- A person’s immune protection from influenza vaccination declines over time and annual vaccination is recommended.
What’s the difference between Trivalent and Quadrivalent vaccines?
Trivalent vaccines include two A strains and one B strain. Quadrivalent vaccines include two A strains and two B strains, providing you with the best protection against the flu this winter.
Who should have the flu vaccination?
Almost everyone can benefit from having the flu vaccination. Even if you’re fit and healthy you could pass the virus on to someone who is at risk of becoming very sick if they catch the flu. If you care for children, older parents, or any other high-risk person, then you should consider getting the flu vaccination
Who shouldn’t have the flu vaccination?
Children younger than 6 months of age, people with severe or life-threatening allergies to the flu vaccine or ingredients in the flu vaccine including gelatin, antibiotics or egg.
Can you get influenza from a flu vaccine?
Influenza vaccines will not give you the flu as the vaccines available in Australia do not contain the ‘live’ virus. After vaccination, the person will develop antibody levels that are likely to protect them
against the strains of virus represented in the vaccine.
As the influenza virus is ever mutating and changing, in some cases the influenza vaccination may not prevent a person contracting the virus. However, it can help to reduce the severity and/or duration of the virus.
Are there possible side effects of the flu vaccination?
Although there is strict testing in place for flu vaccinations in Australia, they may cause one or more side effects. These can include:
- Aches in muscles
- Temperature change
- Pain or swelling where the injection was given
- A small, hard lump where the injection was given (can last 1-2 weeks)
If you’re concerned about the persistence or severity of the side effects that you or your loved one is experiencing, please either see your GP or visit your nearest hospital immediately.
Is the flu vaccination safe?
Yes. All flu vaccines currently available in Australia are safe to use in adults. In Australia, the flu vaccine (and all other vaccines, in fact) must pass stringent safety testing before being approved for use by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Can I get the flu vaccine if I am over 65?
If you are over 65, please consult your GP, pharmacist or immunisation provider before booking your appointment.
When do I need to see a doctor?
- If you have an underlying condition such as asthma, shortness of breath, or if you fall under the high-risk category, you should see your doctor immediately when flu symptoms appear as you may need an antiviral prescription.
- Any sign of infection i.e. sinus pain around the face when bending down.
When should I go to a hospital?
Call an ambulance if you experience any of the below:
- Trouble breathing, or breathing is painful
- Inability to keep fluids down
- Blood in phlegm
- Inability to think clearly or speech is slurred
- Weakness which results in an inability to sit or stand
- Dehydration or limpness
Keep a regular check on babies and toddlers’ nappies. If the child has not taken fluids, appears limp, head is sunken, or has not had a wet nappy for a long period, they should be taken to hospital as they may be experiencing dehydration.
When is the best time to get vaccinated?
Vaccination is best undertaken in autumn (March – May) in anticipation of Australia’s peak flu season which usually occurs between June and September.
I have a flu vaccination voucher, what should I do with this?
To redeem your voucher for a free flu vaccination, you should bring your voucher with you on your next trip to your local TerryWhite Chemmart, ensuring you also have photo identification. Be sure to check out our other FAQs (above) to confirm you’re eligible to be vaccinated against the flu.
2 National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) influenza fact sheet, March 2019
6 National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) influenza vaccines factsheet, March 2019
8 National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) influenza vaccines factsheet, March 2019
»Service fees apply. Flu Vaccinations can only be provided to customers aged over 10 years in NSW, QLD, SA, TAS, VIC and WA and 16 years in ACT & NT. For vaccinations for younger customers and children, please see your GP. Please arrive 5 minutes prior to your appointment and be aware you will need to remain in store for a further 15-minute observation period. Some customers may be eligible for the free flu vaccination – please speak to your pharmacist, GP or other immunisation provider to see if you are eligible. Important: Some people may not be eligible for the flu vaccination. Please speak with one of our pharmacists to confirm if you are eligible.