This Winter, Irish Pharmacist Sheena Mitchell, and founder of the health podcast at Wondercare.ie urges parents to avail of the FREE nasal flu vaccine before the season hits peak virus circulation in December and January. Designed by super scientists, the nasal flu vaccine is actually the best one too! Pain free and heat sensitive, the weakened virus will die once it gets past your nostrils to your body temperature. It is impossible to catch the flu from the vaccine.
With an incubation period of up to 2-weeks, the Pharmacist and mum of three, Sheena Mitchell says the key to keeping your family well this winter, is to get the flu vaccine during the month of November. This year, the HSE has made the flu vaccine available for free for all children aged from 2-years to 12 years. Children in this age group can get vaccinated with the gentle nasal spray flu vaccine by their local community pharmacist or GP. While older children under 18 years can get it if they have an underlying medical condition or if they are living with someone who is vulnerable.
“I love the nasal flu vaccine, it’s super science live in action,” says Pharmacist Sheena Mitchell, who has already vaccinated over 2,000 children in primary schools over the last few weeks. “The nasal flu vaccine contains a weakened live strain of the virus, which means that it's actually more effective than getting the injection flu vaccine. In practical terms, this means that as we get deeper into the flu season the nasal flu vaccine will also protect you against any mutations to the viral strains that are within the flu virus.”
Pharmacist Sheena Mitchell explains; “The nasal flu vaccine is really clever. Scientists have designed it so that it's heat sensitive. As a pharmacist, I spray a little bit of the flu vaccine into each of your child's nostrils. Since the nostrils are colder than the rest of the body, the flu virus will only replicate within the nasal passageways and in effect cause ‘flu of the nose’. Once the flu viruses start to try and move into the rest of your child’s body, they will be killed by normal body temperature. It's super science. Your child may end up having a little bit of nasal congestion for a couple of days after vaccination or a mild temperature which is completely normal.”
Anybody who receives the injection flu vaccine will be covered for the flu virus strains recommended by the World Health Organisation. However, if these strains start to mutate later in the flu season, around February or March, the vaccine won't offer the same level of protection. Children who receive the live nasal flu vaccine will be able to better respond to any of these flu virus changes, giving them greater protection.
MYTH-BUSTING FLU FACTS:
- The Flu is just a Bad Cold - WRONG. The Flu is not the same as a Cold. In fact, both illnesses are caused by completely different viruses. The symptoms of a Cold usually much milder than the symptoms of Flu. Unlike the Flu, a Cold will generally not result in serious health complications.
- The Flu is a Rite of Passage to create Antibodies - WRONG. The Flu can be a particularly serious illness for children, who could require hospitalisation even if they have no underlying illness. Almost 5,000 children were admitted to hospital with flu complications in Ireland over the last ten years. Almost 200 children had treatment in intensive care, and sadly 40 children died. A vaccine could have prevented these children’s deaths.
- The Flu Vaccine will make you Sick. WRONG. The side effects of the nasal spray flu vaccine are the same as from any other vaccine. So, if you have given your child all of their vaccines to date, there’s no reason not to get this one. You cannot catch flu from the vaccine, it simply isn't scientifically possible.
- Putting the Live Flu Virus Vaccine into my Child is not Safe. WRONG. Children are given a weakened strain of the live flu virus through a gentle nasal spray in a format that cannot actually cause infection. Instead, it simply promotes an immune response that produces the necessary antibodies so that your child’s body is ready to respond and fight the flu.
- There’s no point in getting the Flu Vaccine as the Virus keeps Mutating. WRONG. Every flu virus you catch or strain you are vaccinated against has markers that your system’s antibodies will remember. This will help your body to fight infection now and in the future with a stronger immune response. The strains of flu virus that circulate each year are slightly different, but they are from the same family of virus. Every year your child gets the flu vaccine, you're adding to their body's knowledge of flu strains and giving them an arsenal of antibodies to promote their health as children and into adulthood.
- My GP is too busy to give the nasal flu vaccine. WRONG. Your GP wants their patients to get vaccinated against the Flu virus now, so that they can give the best care to their sick patients as winter progresses. The HSE has made it easier than ever this year for children to get their free nasal flu vaccine by allowing pharmacists to vaccinate in their community pharmacy or in primary schools. Pharmacy owner Sheena Mitchell will travel to your school to vaccinate, just get in touch through WonderCare.ie
TIME IS TICKING
The clocks may have gone back an hour for daylight saving, but time is ticking to get the flu vaccine. The incubation period of the vaccine is around 2-weeks before you’re fully protected against flu, and peak flu virus circulation in December and January is too late. The expiry date for the HSE nasal flu vaccines in GPs and pharmacies is the 29th December, so the time is now to prevent a bad flu season this year and to save more lives with the vaccine.
“Teachers don’t want children to miss out on any more education due to nasty viruses, or to become super spreaders in the classroom. It’s also really convenient for parents, and kids get to see how easy it is for their school friends to get the vaccine with no fuss or pain. It is literally a little spray in each nostril, and they can continue to breathe normally while getting vaccinated.”
Wintertime can be quite stressful for parents with high levels of RSV circulating, new strains of Covid, and the Flu. Especially when many of the symptoms are similar across all three viral infections. Thankfully there are now 3-in-1 antigen home tests from your pharmacy, that could help. The Fluorecare triple antigen test from WonderCare.ie will check for the three main respiratory diseases using just one nasal swab, including RSV, Flu A, Flu B, and Covid viruses. It is important to note that if your child's symptoms are worrying you in any way, you should always visit your doctor.
Tune into the WonderCare.ie Podcast for more expert advice and tips to mind your family’s healthcare. Find a WonderCare Podcast on iTunes, Spotify or wherever you stream your podcasts.