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By Stephanie Simons,
Head Pharmacist,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire

When we think of December we think of Christmas, twinkling lights and Dunkley’s eggnog – all the wonderful things that come with the season. However, as a pharmacist, “tis the season” also means the flu season! December marks the beginning of the peak flu season which runs through to the spring. That’s why we encourage flu vaccine awareness at this time of year.

I’ve previously covered the importance of keeping a flu survival kit and how to take care of yourself and loved ones during a bout of the flu, but I wanted to take some time to talk about the importance of the vaccine itself, how it works and what to do if you suffer from a fear of needles.

The flu vaccine works in the same was as many other vaccines, by introducing deactivated strains of flu viruses into your body. These deactivated samples cannot cause the flu because they have been neutralised. It is recommended that you get a vaccine for the flu every year, particularly if you are pregnant, have a chronic illness which suppresses your immune system, are over the age of 65 or under the age of five. The reason that you have to keep ‘renewing’ your vaccination is because the strains change all the time. Every year, the World Health Organisation holds a meeting in which they decide what the likeliest strains of flu will be in the coming year and these are the ones that you will be protected against in the vaccine.overcoming-fear-of-needles-calendar

We all know that the flu jab is helpful and should be done every year, however, a huge number of people don’t take the opportunity to protect themselves. For some people, it’s because they simply don’t remember or think to do it. Therefore, it’s so important to make it part of your to-do list – even your list of things to get done before Christmas! This will ensure that you and your family have a merry Christmas and not a sick one.

A large percentage of people, though, avoid getting the flu vaccine for an entirely different reason: because they are afraid of needles. British and American experts have overcoming-fear-of-needles-injectionsuggested that as much as 10-20 percent of the population suffer from a phobia of needles, also known as trypanophobia. So, if you’re a needle phobic, you’re not alone!

Needle phobia can range from feeling panicked to fainting. There is no shame in being afraid of needles and the first thing to do when it comes to managing your fear is to be open about it. Tell your doctor or nurse that you’re not comfortable with needles and ask them to have patience, they will understand and can help you through the process.

Remember that the actual injection will be over very quickly. However, it is important to keep breathing throughout, deep and level breaths. It will help to position yourself so that you can look away from the needle and many find it useful to have someone with them to talk to, or even listen to music on their phone. Children may benefit from having a tablet with a game or video on. These will provide something to focus on and distract from the jab.

Take a snack, ideally, a healthy one such as a banana or other piece of fruit, to eat after the injection to help with any light-headedness that you may experience. You should remain seated for as long as you need and if you feel unwell, make sure you have someone drive you home. Some people may experience muscle aches or a slight temperature in the aftermath of their injection, but this shouldn’t be confused with getting a cold or flu. Take it easy and treat yourself to a hot bath or shower afterward to relax. The greatest incentive, though, should be to get yourself through the holiday season flu-free to spend time with family and friends.

From everyone at Lindo’s, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.