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Get the flu vaccine...not the flu

Posted by Brady Bunch on

Influenza (flu) is a highly infectious acute respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. It can affect people of any age. You can now get the flu vaccination from Whelehan’s pharmacy for €15.

Those considered “at-risk” from flu
There are certain groups of at-risk people who are more at risk of serious complications or even death if they get flu. In Ireland, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee has recommended that certain groups of at-risk people need to be vaccinated for seasonal influenza. This includes everyone aged 65 and older, children and adults with long-term illnesses such as asthma, diabetes and heart problems or any condition which weakens the immune system, people who attend schools or day centres for people with disabilities and pregnant women. Health care staff and carers are also advised get the flu vaccine. You can get the flu the vaccine through your GP surgery or pharmacy. Flu vaccination in pharmacy is free of charge for some groups including those with certain long term illness and medical card holders and GP visit card holders.

Symptoms of Flu

Symptoms of flu include sudden fever, chills, headache, muscle pain, sore throat, non-productive dry cough, exhaustion and weakness. Flu characteristically causes a temperature of 38 to 40° C that lasts 3-4 days.

The difference between cold and flu

A cold will develop slowly over a few days with symptoms like a sore throat and a blocked or runny nose. The symptom of flu hits you suddenly and severely with symptoms like fever and muscle aches. Flu hits you like a brick. Often people suffering from a bad cold wrongly believe they have flu. Flu causes extreme exhaustion, muscle aches, severe sweats and leaves you so weak you will not be able to get out of bed. Work and other normal routines are not possible with flu.

Complications of flu

Most people recover from flu in 2-7 days, but in some people it can last for up to two or three weeks. However, flu can be severe and can cause serious illness and death, especially in the very young and in the elderly. Serious respiratory complications can develop, including pneumonia and bronchitis. Older people and those with certain chronic medical conditions are at particular risk of these complications. Pregnant women and women up to six weeks after giving birth have also been found to be at increased risk of the complications of flu. Hospital treatment is needed in some cases, usually in the elderly or people with or serious long term conditions. Complications of flu are a common cause of death every winter. 80 to 90% of reported deaths from influenza occur in the elderly, mainly from bacterial pneumonia (200 deaths per year in Ireland), but also from the underlying disease. Other serious complications of flu are rare and may include ear infection, tonsillitis, septic shock (infection of the blood that causes a severe drop in blood pressure), meningitis (infection in the brain and spinal cord) and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).


How do you catch flu?

Flu is a highly infectious illness. Influenza is spread from person to person by direct contact, by droplet infection or by contact with materials recently contaminated by nasal or oral secretions. Airborne spread can also occur. For example, a person carrying the virus can spread the illness by coughing or sneezing. It is highly contagious, especially in close contact environments such as homes for the elderly. A person can spread the virus from 1-2 days before they develop symptoms and for up to a week after symptoms develop. 

What to you if you get flu?

There is no cure for the flu once you get it. Treatment consists of treating symptoms like high temperature and ensuring you are warm and comfortable to prevent complications like pneumonia. The flu will usually run its course within 7 days but it can take up to 3 weeks to recover depending on the strain of flu and the general health of the sufferer. If you are otherwise fit and healthy, there is usually no need to see a doctor if you have flu-like symptoms. The best remedy is to rest at home, keep warm and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. You can take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower a high temperature and relieve aches and pains.

However you should see a doctor if you have flu-like symptoms and you are 65 or over, are pregnant, have a long-term medical condition such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, kidney or neurological disease or have a weakened immune system. This is because flu can be more serious for you, and your doctor may want to prescribe antiviral medication to prevent complications.

Antiviral medicines such as Tamiflu® can reduce the symptoms of flu and shorten its duration, but treatment needs to start soon after flu symptoms have begun in order to be effective. Anti-viral medicines are only available on prescription from your GP and they will only be prescribed if the doctor feels you are at high risk of flu complications. Antibiotics are of no use in the treatment of flu because it is caused by a virus and not bacteria. However, they may me required if you develop complications from flu like a bacterial chest infection.

How can flu be prevented?
The only way flu can be prevented is with vaccination. Vaccinations can be done at your local GP surgery or at some pharmacies. It costs €15 to get the flu vaccine at Whelehans. Call us at 04493 34591 to book your vaccine.

Eamonn Brady is a pharmacist and the owner of Whelehans Pharmacy, Pearse St, Mullingar. If you have any health questions e-mail them to

This article is shortened for this Health Blog. More detailed information and leaflets are available in Whelehans or check

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