If you work with, care for, or live with someone who is at a higher risk of influenza it is strongly recommended that you get vaccinated. This is because you might pass on the virus to someone who could become very ill, and you are also more at risk of catching the disease yourself.
The influenza vaccine is safe at any stage during pregnancy, but it is best to receive the vaccine as early as possible in order to protect yourself and your baby.
Infection and transmission
Influenza is highly contagious and is transmitted person-to-person, for example through coughing, sneezing or touching contaminated surfaces.
Research shows that the virus can live for up to an hour in the air (e.g. after someone has sneezed) and for up to eight hours on hard surfaces such as plastic, metal or wood! The virus is usually incubated in the body for two days before the first symptoms appear and can hang around for a few days after the symptoms have gone. This means that you might be around people who have the flu, without knowing it.
You should get a new influenza vaccine each year. Most people only need one shot per year, however, some people such as children getting the vaccine for the first time, may need more than one dose.
There are different vaccines available, depending on your age. Your pharmacist will be able to tell you what vaccine is right for you and how many doses you need.
The vaccines do not contain the live virus, which means that you cannot get the flu by getting vaccinated.
Severe side effects to vaccination are rare. However, tell your pharmacist if you have any allergies or medical concerns before getting the vaccine. The flu shot may be dangerous to people who have had a bad reaction to a previous influenza vaccine, or who have a severe allergy to egg. Your pharmacist can advise you on whether the flu shot is right for you.
The influenza vaccine does not the live virus. This means that you cannot get the flu by getting vaccinated. However, you may experience some swelling, pain or redness at the injection site. This usually only lasts for one or two days and can be eased by applying an ice pack or using a pain relief such as paracetamol. Some people may have mild symptoms such as tiredness, a low fever or headache after receiving the vaccine. This is caused by the body’s immune response.
If you feel very unwell, faint, short of breath or if your symptoms do not go away, you should contact your doctor.
Preventing the flu
Getting vaccinated and practicing good hygiene are the best ways to avoid getting the flu.