How to protect yourself against flu and covid “twindemic”

When and how can I book my Covid boosters?

The National Booking Service went live on September 7th and can be accessed here. As with previous campaigns, those most at risk will be called first, with those eligible to book online or via 119 as long as three months have passed since their last dose.

What is the Covid vaccination this fall? What variants does it cover?

The fall booster gives you a dose of either a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. You may be offered an updated combination version of these booster vaccines, including half a dose of the previous vaccine combined with a half dose of an Omicron variant vaccine.

How effective is it?

According to the UKHSA, both the previous and combination vaccines are very effective in enhancing protection, but the combination vaccines produce slightly higher levels of antibodies against some strains of Omicron.

What are the side effects of the Covid vaccination?

The NHS stresses millions of people have had the Covid vaccination and serious side effects are very rare. But common side effects include a sore arm from the injection, fatigue, headache, nausea and vomiting. Some people may experience fever, flushing, or chills a day or two after vaccination.

Can you – and should you – get Covid and flu shots at the same time? What is most important?

You can – the NHS says it’s safe to have the Covid booster and the flu shot at the same time. It would mean you have two separate vaccinations, but you may be able to book an appointment for both if your GP offers the two.

Covid vaccine centers will only provide the Covid vaccine; If you get your booster shot at a dedicated center, you’ll need to get your flu shot elsewhere.

Most importantly, if you belong to a higher risk group or work with people who are, then both are important and you should accept your offer for both. Risk groups are offered a free flu shot, and younger, healthy adults can pay for a flu shot at a pharmacy, as in previous years. This demographic is not currently being called for a Covid refresher.

How do I know if I have Covid, the flu or a cold?

The only way to know if you have Covid is to have a Covid test, although official guidance no longer advises you to do so. Some people are still eligible for free Covid tests; for example if you work in healthcare or adult care. The rest of us have to buy them now. Rapid lateral flow tests are available in person and online at some pharmacies and retailers.

There are several key differences between the flu and the common cold. According to the NHS, the flu comes on quickly (within a few hours) while a cold comes on more slowly; Flu affects more than just the nose and throat, while a cold mainly affects these areas; and while the flu leaves you exhausted and unable to go about your normal activities, a cold can make you feel unwell, but you’ll still be able to go about your normal activities.

What are currently the most common symptoms of Covid?

According to data from the ZOE Health Study tracker app, the current top 5 symptoms experienced in the past few weeks in people who have had two Covid vaccinations are: runny nose, headache, sneezing, sore throat and persistent cough. The symptoms previously associated with the virus – loss of smell, shortness of breath and fever – are now significantly less common in fully vaccinated people.

What are the most common flu symptoms?

Flu symptoms can include: a sudden high temperature; an aching body; feeling tired or exhausted; a dry cough; Sore throat; Headache; difficult sleeping; loss of appetite; diarrhea or stomach pain; nausea and vomiting.

Can you get Covid and flu at the same time?

Yes – and that’s not a good combination. Research suggests patients hospitalized with covid and flu are at far greater risk of serious illness and death at the same time. A study conducted by the Universities of Edinburgh, Liverpool and Leiden and Imperial College London showed that patients infected at the same time with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid) and the flu were more than four times more likely , to be ventilated support and 2.4 times more likely to die than if they only had Covid.

How can I book a flu shot?

Anyone can book a flu shot from a pharmacy if they’re willing to pay the £16.99 cost. However, high-risk groups can get an NHS flu shot free of charge. You can book your free flu shot at a pharmacy if you are 65 or older, have certain medical conditions, are pregnant or are frontline adult social workers. From mid-October, people over the age of 50 can also be vaccinated against flu free of charge.

If you’re entitled to a free flu shot you can also have it at your GP’s office, but if you’re having trouble booking one at your office it may be easier to book online with a pharmacy.

All primary school children and some secondary school children are eligible for the flu nasal spray that is normally given at school. General practitioners also invite two- and three-year-olds to their practices for nasal spray vaccination.

When does the flu season start and how long does it last?

Flu season falls between December and March, but the disease can spread from October and some cases have already been detected in the UK this autumn. Although cases are concentrated in the winter months, it’s possible to catch the flu at any time, and sometimes outbreaks can’t appear until mid-spring.

How else can I protect myself from colds, flu and Covid this year?

The UKHSA encourages everyone to help stop the spread of respiratory viruses this winter by practicing good hand hygiene, wearing masks in crowded or enclosed public spaces and covering your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing.

That being said, experts suggest a number of ways to boost your immune system naturally. These include: a Mediterranean diet rich in different colored fruits and vegetables to maximize the number of nutrients; get a good night’s sleep (adults need an average of seven to nine hours a night); do sports regularly; and consider topping up your vitamin D with a supplement as the days get shorter. The government advises everyone to consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement during the fall and winter to support their overall health.


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