Protect yourself, your baby and family against flu

By on 05/12/2013 in News

Flu jabYou would do anything to protect your unborn baby, but many pregnant women don't realise how dangerous and debilitating flu can be.

Getting vaccinated against flu is the best way to protect yourself and your baby from the virus, and make sure you stay flu safe all winter.

If you're pregnant the flu jab is quick, safe and completely free - just ask your midwife or GP and make an appointment. You can have the jab at any stage of pregnancy, and it can also protect your baby for the first few months after birth.

This year, for the first time, a free nasal vaccination spray will also be offered to parents of healthy two and three-year-olds so that their children can also be protected from the flu.

Last year just 40% of pregnant women in England were vaccinated against flu, despite the increased risks they face by catching the virus.

It normally takes 10-14 days to develop protection after the vaccine, and protection against flu lasts all winter. Pregnant women are urged to get a jab as soon as possible to minimise the risk to themselves and their babies.

Nicola Benge, Public Health Consultant for NHS England in Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country, said: “Pregnant women are at increased risk of serious illness if they catch flu.

“Research shows that the jab is safe for mother and baby and can be given at any stage of pregnancy. The earlier you have the vaccine the better as it means you will be protected for the whole winter.

“Remember that as well as having potentially serious consequences, flu can lay you low for a couple of weeks and make it really difficult to look after your kids or go to work. Flu is the last thing you need when you're pregnant, and it's so easy to avoid with a quick jab.

“I'd also urge all parents of two to three-year-olds to take up the offer of a free nasal spray vaccine for their child, or children. While it's the first year the spray has been made available on the NHS, it has been used effectively and safely in other countries for a number of years.”

The flu vaccine only lasts for a year, so if you had a vaccination last year or during a previous pregnancy, you will need another one to stay flu safe. The jab doesn't contain the 'live' virus so it cannot give you the flu.

Flu is an unpleasant illness which can result in a stay in hospital. In severe cases flu can be a killer. Don't take the risk - speak to your midwife or GP today to make sure you have a happy and healthy pregnancy by getting the jab and getting flu safe.

For more information, speak to your GP, midwife or local pharmacist, or visit www.nhs.uk/flu

Flu vaccinations are currently offered free of charge to the following 'at risk' groups:

  • people aged 65 years or over (including those becoming age 65 years by 31 March 2013).
  • all pregnant women (including those women who become pregnant during the flu season).
  • children aged 2-3, who are eligible for a free nasal flu vaccination
  • people with a serious medical condition such as

i. chronic (long-term) respiratory disease, such as severe asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or bronchitis

ii. chronic heart disease, such as heart failure

iii. chronic kidney disease at stage 3, 4 or 5

iv. chronic liver disease

v. chronic neurological disease, such as Parkinson’s disease or motor neurone disease

vi. diabetes

vii. a weakened immune system due to disease (such as HIV/AIDS) or treatment (such as cancer treatment)

  • people living in long stay residential care homes or other long-stay care facilities where rapid spread is likely to follow introduction of infection and cause high morbidity and mortality. This does not include, for instance, prisons, young offender institutions, or university halls of residence
  • people who are in receipt of a carer's allowance, or those who are the main carer of an older or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill

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