Everything you need to know about the flu vaccine (and other ways to stay healthy)

Coming into winter, there's always a risk we can get the flu, but as we brace ourselves the colder temperatures over the coming weeks and months, there's no harm in the reminder that we really do need to be mindful, and wrap up, in order to keep symptoms at bay – this includes getting the flu vaccine.  Here's all you need to know about it, plus a few other simple tips to keep yourself feeling well.


Make your appointment for the flu vaccine

According to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, 'influenza season' starts in October and continues right through to May, though cases of people being hospitalised in Ireland tend to peak as we hit November through to January/February.

One of the first things recommended is to get the flu vaccine, generally from the end of September.  Each year the seasonal flu vaccine contains three common influenza virus strains. The flu virus changes each year and therefore a new flu vaccine must be given each year. The seasonal flu vaccine helps a person’s immune system to produce antibodies to the flu virus. It helps your immune system to produce antibodies to fight influenza virus. If you have been vaccinated and you come into contact with the virus, these antibodies will attack it and stop you from getting sick. The flu vaccine starts to work within two weeks

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Related: 'A civic duty': Orla Tinsley calls on everyone to get the flu vaccine

Who should get the flu vaccination?

While everyone should consider getting the vaccinations, it’s especially important for specific at-risk groups, including those over 65, people with impaired immune systems, those with a BMI over 40, pregnant women, healthcare workers and carers, cancer patients and those with disabilities. The HSE strongly urges the following at-risk groups get vaccinated, especially if you are:

  • are 65 years of age and over
  • are pregnant
  • are a child or adult with a long-term health condition
  • work in healthcare
  • are a carer or household contact of anyone at increased medical risk of flu
  • live in a nursing home or other long-term care facility
  • in regular contact with pigs, poultry or water fowl

Where can I get it? 

If you are over 65 years, or an at-risk patient aged 18-64, who holds a Medical Card, Doctor Visit Card or has HAA eligibility, winter flu vaccination is FREE. If you are over 65, or one of the at-risk patients aged 18-64, and are not eligible for any of the above schemes, winter flu vaccination costs around €15 in most pharmacies. For all other customers over 18 years outside of the categories above, winter flu vaccination costs €20.

Try natural remedies

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Obviously, eating well and staying in good physical shape will strengthen your immune system, but equally, there are other options you can add to your day-to-day that will also help.

Probiotics 

Probiotics help your body in many different ways. They remove harmful toxins from the body, help your body metabolise fat and sugar, and nurture a healthy gut. To get the most out of these you will need to invest in one of the more expensive probiotics from the fridge section in your nearest health store - they pack more effective live bacteria.

Lemon-infused water

Whether it’s hot or cold, make sure to add this to your daily routine. Lemon water is a great source of vitamin C and B, Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium that will definitely help to kick-start your day. Drinking lemon-infused water is also great for digestion and balancing pH levels in your body, which helps maintain a healthy system.

Echinacea

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Echinacea is also a great way to beat the flu. The North American medicinal plant boosts the immune system, reduces the common cold symptoms, fights infection, and alleviates inflammation and pain, so if you’re suffering from a headache or a sore throat , seek it out in liquid rather than pill form, which you can add as a tincture to water repeatedly throughout the day.

Manuka Honey

Manuka honey contains impressive antibacterial properties, which are very effective for treating some flu symptoms. It contains more vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants than any other type of honey. Mix it with a nice hot cup of hot water and lemon and it will help soothe a sore throat and even help with relieving the effects of a dry, irritating cough.

Related: 7 unexpected health and beauty uses for Apple Cider Vinegar 

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a great remedy to help relieve and prevent cold symptoms. It can help boost your gut, fight infection by balancing the pH levels in your body and leave you feeling energised. Not only does it help soothe sore throats, but it also helps with a stuffy nose thanks to its antibiotic properties. It only takes one to two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to take advantage of these amazing health benefits. Slug a nice organic, Irish one (Llewelyn's or Living Culture) first thing in the morning.

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Main photograph: Unsplash

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