Cold, Influenza, COVID 19 - The stuff you may not be aware of!

General Medical

Dr. Preya Alexander

1. Some of us are at increased risk of influenza complications

The flu is caused by influenza virus and it’s completely different to a “cold.” People often use the two terms interchangeably but if you’ve had the flu before you know it’s nothing like a cold where you have a sniffle but can crack on with work/school/ life. The flu tends to knock even the fittest for 6 and it can mean a week in bed with fevers, muscle aches and lethargy.  

All of us, marathon runners and veggie eaters included, are at risk of complications from influenza like pneumonia. But, some of us are more vulnerable to severe disease and complications and that includes anyone aged over 65, children under 5 years old, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, pregnant women and those with medical conditions such as (and certainly not limited to) asthma or diabetes.  

2. Influenza and COVID19 are two different things 

Let me clearly say that if, during the pandemic, you have symptoms suggestive of either a cold or flu (and I’m talking symptoms such as fever, runny nose, cough) it’s essential you get a swab for COVID19!  

Many people think COVID19 and the flu are one and the same or that COVID19 is “just another flu” and that’s not the case; COVID19 is more contagious and can cause more serious illness in some people. 

There are going to be two different vaccines floating around this year – one to protect you against the flu and one to protect you against COVID19. There are two vaccines for two very different illnesses. Whilst we’re on the topic – you can safely have both vaccines, but they need to spaced at least 14 days apart so have a chat to your GP about how to time it all! 

3. Vaccination is one way to protect yourself 

Well, the pandemic has certainly made us more aware of hand washing and social distancing and whilst those things apply to COVID19, the same measures will protect you against the flu as well! 

Vaccination is also one way to protect yourself against the flu – the vaccine reduces your risk of contracting the virus.  

And please, keep coughing and sneezing into your elbow and keep washing your hands! 

4. The flu vaccine needs to be given annually every flu season to provide protection

Yes, you need the jab every year if you want to be protected! Last year’s vaccine won’t protect you this year sadly.  

The vaccine tends to be effective for 3-4 months and after that the immune response wanes. It’s why we try to time the vaccine so carefully- to ensure you have protection in peak season which usually falls in July/August.  

The strains covered in the flu vaccine also vary year to year depending on what they think will be circulating in the community. So, the contents of last year’s vaccine will be different to this years. 

5. No, the flu vaccine can’t give you the flu  

This one’s a myth and I can’ tell you how many times I hear this in the clinic! The flu vaccine isn’t live so it can’t actually cause influenza. Whilst you may have some symptoms such as some muscle aches and fatigue for a day or 2 after the vaccine, as your body mount’s the correct immune response, it’s not the flu! 

Dr Preeya Alexander
Please note: Dr. Preeya's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic please consult your healthcare professional.

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