For many, having the flu not too serious, but for some, it can sometimes bring deadly complications. Therefore, it’s crucial to know how to plan and deal with the flu effectively.
Flu season is roughly from December to March and is quickly approaching once again. Most winter illnesses are irritating but not too troublesome; however, for vulnerable persons such as those in care homes, they are an increasingly serious issue. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the number of excess winter deaths in 2017-18 – which the ONS’s statistician says is likely due to “the predominant strain of flu, …” – in 2017-18 was the highest recorded since winter 1975-76. Therefore, it’s vital to know exactly how to deal with them.
Preparation for the flu
Although there are medicines that can alleviate the symptoms of the flu, there is no cure. However, a flu vaccine is available, which significantly reduces the chances of catching the disease. The vaccine must be administered yearly and provides protection for the whole of that year’s flu season. Remember that even if you’ve already had the flu that does not make you immune, as several different viruses can cause it. Having natural immunity to one type of influenza will not protect you from the other versions of it.
Flu can complicate existing medical conditions, meaning over 65s are at more risk than most, so it’s essential to make sure they are vaccinated. Usually, the vaccine is administered on pharmacy premises, but vaccinations can also be carried out in care homes as long as they follow the correct guidelines. Taking steps to minimise the chance of infection will also help, such as washing hands or sanitising commonly touched areas.
Lesser known groups of people are also at risk of developing the flu. People who act as carers to the elderly, pregnant women and those with serious medical conditions should also deliberate immunisation. Social and healthcare workers too should have the vaccination, as those they care for may be vulnerable to the infection. Normal precautions throughout the colder months are a good idea as well. Keeping yourself healthy by getting enough sleep, making sure your body has enough Vitamin C and staying warm will all help minimise your risk.
What is the flu and how do you spot it?
Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is a viral infection that mainly affects your respiratory system. The flu develops typically 1 – 3 days after being infected. Here are the following symptoms to look out for:
- achy muscles
- feeling cold or having the sweats
- fever over 38°C (100.4°F)
- nasal blockage or runny nose
- headaches and a long-lasting dry cough
- tiredness or fatigue
- sore throat
- loss of appetite
- joint pain
Often, these symptoms are mistaken for the common cold. However, the flu will most likely present itself quickly and involve fever and achy muscles. The flu will often make you feel too unwell to continue your normal day to day activities.
For most, the flu resolves on its own but sometimes can lead to more serious health conditions such as bronchitis or pneumonia. This is why is it increasingly important for those from high-risk groups to consider the flu vaccination. The most at-risk groups are:
- People with weak immune systems
- People over 65 years of age
- Pregnant women
- Those who suffer from chronic illnesses such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease.
- People in nursing or care homes
- Severely overweight people with a BMI of 40 or above
The National Flu Immunisation program is a government-funded public health intervention, aimed at vaccinating the entire country against flu, and so far, it has saved many lives each year. The vaccine is harmless and cannot give you influenza, making it a safe and effective defence against the disease.
The official process
At Better Healthcare, our employees are always kept up to date on the needs of their patients, and the flu is no different. Before your nurse can administer a vaccine, the following will have occurred:
- All healthcare professionals advising on immunisation or administering vaccines will have received specific training in immunisation, including the recognition and treatment of anaphylaxis. This is maintained through regular training as per usual.
- The nurse giving the vaccination will have received training in the management of anaphylaxis and will have immediate access to appropriate equipment. Adrenaline (epinephrine) will always be immediately available.
- All health professionals responsible for immunisation will have a protocol and be familiar with techniques for the resuscitation of a patient with anaphylaxis. In addition, an anaphylaxis pack will always be available whenever vaccines are given.
- If you have refused, then that decision will be legally binding provided it remains valid and applicable to the circumstances – your choice matters.
The anaphylaxis packs will contain two ampoules of adrenaline, and their contents will be checked regularly to ensure they are correct and in date, according to NHS guidelines.
Your Better Healthcare carer
The vaccine substantially reduces the risk of contracting flu, but it doesn’t eliminate it entirely. This is why our carers are trained to minimise the risk of contracting flu, both for themselves and their clients. This can (and often does) include:
- Getting the vaccine themselves.
- Keeping the number of staff attending the home to a minimum.
- Encouraging visitors to be kept to a minimum and making sure they are traceable.
- Keeping their uniforms clean and germ-free.
- Cleaning areas exposed to direct contact, such as table tops and food preparation areas. They will also be clear on the types of products and concentrations to use.
- If necessary, using masks and other protective equipment to prevent cross-contamination.
Influenza is not the only disease to be on the lookout for this winter, though it is by far the most common. Cases of various gastrointestinal infections such as norovirus also increase during the winter months and precautions are taken against them. Health Protection team telephone and fax numbers are displayed prominently where all staff can access them, and all staff are aware of the action that needs to be taken upon identifying an outbreak of such an illness. Staff are also trained in measures to detect and prevent outbreaks:
- Staff have an outbreak control plan and details of who to contact if they suspect an outbreak, as well as knowing what immediate actions must be taken.
- They check supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ensure there is enough to cope with an outbreak of infectious illness.
- They ensure there is a supply of a chlorine releasing agent, such as bleach, available at all times. They are also trained in the use and storage of these materials.
- They maintain supplies of liquid soap and paper towels, enough to deal with an outbreak, as well as supplying paper tissues for resident use.
You deserve better
It’s easy to underestimate the impact of the flu, but at Better Healthcare we take it seriously. All of our employees are trained to reduce or negate the risks associated with this illness, letting you rest easy. Your health is our concern, and with Better Healthcare, you needn’t worry about it.
To find out more get in touch on 0800 668 1234.