Monday, 20 October 2008

A shot in the arm

For those of us who work in the NHS, it’s something that divides opinions as neatly and effortlessly as Bob Dylan or Marmite. It comes around at roughly this time every year and the chatter I hear around the wards and operating theatres suggest that this year is no different. You hear snatched snippets of conversation that go like…

“Are you going to do it? I’m not sure if I should I know Adrian’s doing it but he’s a bit older than me”

“There’s no way that I’m going to do it – I don’t see the point and I’ll just feel rough afterwards.”

“The way I see it is that it’s there to help us so we may as well take the opportunity while it’s there.”

“I can’t believe you’re going to do it, why on earth would anyone want to do that to themselves?”

I’m talking, of course, about the annual flu jab. This gets offered around this time of year to all health care workers as we are deemed “at high risk” because of our exposure to sick people. There is a problem though. The flu vaccine will inevitably make you feel really rough for a couple of days. You’ll get a runny nose, a cough, achy joints – in short, you’ll feel just like you’ve got the flu. It’s not as bad as the real thing though. I remember one Christmas when I was in my mid teens and I came down with the flu really badly. It was horrible. I literally couldn’t get out of bed for a couple of days and I felt hideous for about a week.

As a result, I see things like this: actually getting the flu is far worse than feeling rough for a couple of days. If the shot in the arm helps prevent me from the misery of the virus, then I’m all for it.

Needless to say, I was at the front of the queue when the Occupational Health Department opened their doors today.


Ellie said...

Oh no! I didn't know it made you feel ill... have just done loads of posters for the staff in the SHA to get their jabs...I think I'll feel a bit responsible if they're all feeling rough afterwards! Should I warn them or keep quiet?

madsadgirl said...

Having a flu jab has never made me feel rough afterwards. I have had a painful arm, but this year even that was not a problem. Anyway, I thought the vaccine was 'dead' so it shouldn't make you feel rough; isn't it just a myth to cover up a fear of injections, particularly amongst those whose job involves giving them?

anna gregory said...

Flu jabs rarely cause people to feel ill afterwards!

In my past life in occupational health, the men in one factory held this urban myth that the flu jab gave you flu. After 10 years of giving them, I pretty much knew that it didn't but decided to turn it into a little research study. I questioned 96 men each day for a week after they had their flu jab. Only two men had sniffles. About half had a sore arm. OK - know this is not terribly scientific but it did confirm to me that 'tis indeed a myth.

However, if you have had a cold in the week before having the vaccine, there is a real risk of developing flu, because of immune comprimise (Even though the vaccine is a dead one)

The bugger with the jab is that it only protects you against three strains of virus (Some men in Sweden decide on which 3 are most likely to arrive on British shores, apparantly)so there is still chance of of the others getting to you.

OMG - how sad am I with all this flu jab info - will go away and shut up now.

Elaine said...

Those people who are afraid must be big girls' blouses!

My jab last Saturday gave me a red itchy area about the size of a 10p piece. Even that is better now.

H J said...

re anna, im no medic, but it's a virus, so it's bound to mutate at some point anyway, right? and all these strains must have some kind of similar characteristics (or am i spouting crap?) or else even this jab would be a bit useless ... surely the vaccine, like all vaccines (right? or not?) offers only SOME protection at best?

but to come back to the post, i agree, get a vaccination, much less likely to get the real thing, bonus. i had loads of jabs before coming out to china (both times) on this basis; i'd rather feel crap for a day or so each week i was having them, and / or run the risk of severe reaction to one or two of the vaccines, than actually get hepatitis, japanese encephalitis, typhoid, polio, tetanus, or rabies (yes different rules apply there, i am only too well aware from my last visit). and if it's free, well why not?!

The Little Medic said...

Just been catching up on blogs and wanted to stop by specifically to say a big congrats on passing FRCA!!!!!

Tazocin said...

I've never suffered any ill effects from taking the 'flu jab!

Black Dog said...

It may be coincidence but the ONLY time I've ever had flu was the year I had a flu jab and I've never had one since! I know it was flu and not "man-flu" as I couldn't get out of bed for a week!

Dr Michael Anderson said...

Ah well, it's been 3 days now and no sign of either man-flu or real flu. There does seem to be something going round the department tho - it's probably just coincidence