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Flu Vaccine FAQ

The influenza vaccine is used to prevent infection caused by the influenza (flu) virus. Find out what you need to know in this FAQ.

Flu Vaccine FAQ

The influenza vaccine is used to prevent infection caused by the influenza (flu) virus. Find out what you need to know in this FAQ.

When should I get the flu vaccine?

The official flu season runs from April to December.

It is best to get your flu vaccine before winter, as during winter is when the flu is most active in our communities.  It takes around two weeks after being immunised for the vaccine to become fully effective and the body to develop immunity- that's when you'll be best protected. If you don't manage to get the flu vaccine before winter, it is still recommended to get it in the following months.  


Why do I need to get the flu vaccine every year? 

For the best protection, you’ll need to get the flu vaccine every year because:

  • Protection against the flu reduces over time.
  • Each year the flu can be caused by different strains of flu viruses that are not covered by the previous year’s vaccine.


How can I get the flu? 

The flu is a viral infection passed from person to person via infected droplets commonly spread by sneezing and coughing. Direct contact with these fluids into the nose, mouth, or eyes or indirect contact through contaminated surfaces can infect a person with the flu.


How can I prevent spreading the flu?

  • Get immunised with an annual flu vaccine.
  • Stay at home if you are unwell.
  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with hot soapy water or use hand sanitiser.
  • Coughing etiquette.  Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue. Dispose of any used tissues immediately.
  • After coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose, ensure appropriate hand washing or hand sanitiser techniques are followed.


What is the difference between a cold and the flu?

Because both colds and flu share some symptoms it is easy to confuse the two, as they both occur more frequently in winter. The flu is a serious illness and is different from the common cold.  A cold virus usually only affects the nose, throat and the upper chest and lasts for a few days. Flu can be a serious illness that affects the whole body and can last for a week or longer.


What are the symptoms of the flu?

Flu symptoms can be severe and are not to be confused with cold symptoms – with the flu you often don’t have the energy to get out of bed.

Symptoms of flu may include a combination of the following:

  • Fever greater or equal to 38°C.
  • Cough.
  • Sore throat.
  • Runny nose or stuffy nose.
  • Muscle aches and pains.
  • Headaches.
  • Sweats or chills.
  • Stomach upset, vomiting or diarrhoea.


Who is most at risk of getting the flu?

Although anyone can get the flu, some people are more at risk of getting the flu than others. The Ministry of Health has identified that the following groups are at higher risk of developing complications from flu viruses and are therefore eligible for a free flu vaccine. They include those who:

  • Are pregnant.
  • Are significantly overweight.
  • Use asthma preventers.
  • Have diabetes.
  • Are aged 65 years or over.
  • Māori and Pacific peoples aged 55 to 64 years.
  • Have heart disease.
  • Have kidney problems.
  • Have a serious medical condition, like cancer.


Who is eligible for a free flu vaccine? 

  • Pregnant women (at any time during pregnancy).
  • People aged 65 years or older.
  • Māori and Pacific peoples aged 55 to 64 years.
  • People aged under 65 years (including children) with diabetes, most heart or lung conditions, and some other illnesses.
  • Children aged 4 years or under who have had a stay in hospital for measles, asthma or other breathing problems. 


*information from www.fightflu.co.nz

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