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Flu Vaccine

Winter Illness: 6 Winter Health Conditions and How to Combat Them

Posted Thursday 29 November 2018 12:53 by Tim Deakin in Primary Care Givers

woman blowing her noseTis the season to watch your health closely

There are a large number of health problems that are triggered by cold weather, such as colds, asthma and the flu. We’re here to help you identify and treat these conditions effectively, so you can enjoy this time of year without worry. Let’s take a look.


We’re all familiar with the common cold. In fact, colds are the most common acute illness in the industrialised world, with young children experiencing an average of 6-8 colds per year and adults experiencing 2-4.

Thankfully, you can reduce your likelihood of catching a cold through simple hygiene measures, such as washing your hands thoroughly and regularly. You should also keep your home and any household items clean – especially mugs, glasses, towels and pillows.

Fluwinter illness

The flu is a lot more than just a bad cold. In fact, the flu virus can even be fatal in people aged over 65, pregnant women, and people with long-term health conditions such as diabetes, COPD and kidney disease. The best line of defence against the flu is the flu jab, which offers protection for one year.

Joint pain

Although there is no evidence to suggest that weather has a direct effect on our joints, many people with arthritis complain that their symptoms worsen during the winter months. It is not clear why exactly this is the case, but the likelihood is that an overall downward turn in mood can have an impact on people’s perception of their arthritis. Many people feel more prone to negative feelings in the winter, which could cause them to feel pain more acutely.

What’s more, we also tend to move less in the winter, which could have an impact on our joints. Daily exercise is recommended as a way to boost both physical and mental wellbeing. Swimming is ideal as it is relatively gentle on the joints.

Cold sores

Harsh winter winds can dry out our lips and make them more susceptible to the virus that causes cold sores. However, we also know that cold sores are a clear indication of feeling run down or stressed. So, as well as keeping your lips moisturised this season, you should also look after yourself by taking steps to reduce your stress levels. This could involve doing a simple relaxing activity every day like having a hot bath, taking a walk or watching one of your favourite films. It could also involve talking to those around you – or even a professional – about your stress.


Cold air is one of the leading triggers for asthma symptoms such as shortness of breath and wheezing. This means that people living with asthma need to be extra careful at this time of year. Put extra effort into remembering to take your regular medications, and be sure to keep a reliever inhaler close by.

Asthma patients should try to avoid going outdoors on particularly cold and windy days. If this is unavoidable, wear a scarf loosely over your nose and mouth for an added layer of defence.

Acid reflux

Although acid reflux is not directly affected by a change in the weather, it often becomes worse in the winter due to the way our diets and habits change. We tend to indulge in more fatty and rich foods in the winter, as well as more alcohol – especially during the festive period. We also tend to move less and spend more time lying down or slouching, which can also worsen symptoms.

Making positive changes to your diet and fitness regime can help to keep symptoms like heartburn at bay. Effective acid reflux relief medication is also available right here at Express Pharmacy.

Don’t risk your wellbeing this winter; take the necessary precautions to enjoy the season with a clean bill of health.

All You Need to Know About the Flu Virus

Posted Thursday 24 November 2016 17:32 by Tim Deakin in Primary Care Givers

flu vaccineWith winter fast approaching, the health headlines are filled with seasonal cold and flu stories. It is indeed the time of year when the flu virus strikes and for older people in particular being struck down by this winter bug can be especially debilitating.

Most commonly suffered between December and March when the weather is at its coldest and your immune system more vulnerable, you may have already encountered seasonal flu. Knowing exactly what seasonal flu is and what you can do to protect yourself is the key to making the festive season a pleasant one and not a pain-filled one.

What is seasonal flu?

Flu or influenza can strike at any time of the year but is more common during the winter months. Flu is essentially a virus that is extremely infectious and rather unpleasant, and whilst it is often mentioned in the same breath as the common cold, the two are very different. The common cold and seasonal flu are the result of different virus groups, and with the flu, symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headaches, coughs, aches and pains start suddenly and last for much longer.

There are three types of flu virus, A, B and C, although C is much more rare than the other two forms of the disease. Once you have been infected, flu virus symptoms tend to appear within two to three days, however most will start to feel relief within one week. Children, older people and individuals with weakened immune systems however many feel unwell for longer periods.

For elderly people and those with long-term health issues, exposure to flu can also lead to serious complications, including chest infections and worsening of existing long-term health conditions. In rare cases, flu can cause tonsillitis, ear infections, sinusitis, convulsions, meningitis and encephalitis. Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to infection, and the flu has been linked to pregnancy complications.

As we mentioned the flu is extremely infectious and is passed on from the nose and mouth of the infected person via coughing and sneezing.

What can you do to protect yourself?

There are many ways that you can protect yourself from the flu virus. As the infection is passed from person to person, good hygiene can go a long way in preventing its spread. In addition to washing your hands on a regular basis with warm water and soap, you should also clean surfaces that you commonly come into contact with or share contact with – door handles, computer keyboards and telephones are common culprits when it comes to the spread of flu. Using tissues to guard your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, and disposing of those tissues immediately, is also vital to stopping its spread.

The flu vaccine is also an excellent route to prevention, and whilst it is available for free on the NHS to those aged 65 or over, children aged between 2 and 4 years old, pregnant women, children of school age (in years one and two only), those with long-term health conditions (children and adults suffering from chronic heart or lung disease are particularly susceptible to infection and more serious complications) and individuals with weaker immune systems, privately anyone can have access to the annual flu vaccine. Delivered to children as a nasal spray or to adults as a trivalent (three-component) and quadrivalent (four-component) shot, the flu vaccine triggers the development of protecting antibodies and is most effective when given between September and early November.

What Is Seasonal Flu and Should I Be Vaccinated?

Posted Tuesday 22 December 2015 16:00 by Tim Deakin in Primary Care Givers

What is flu?

Influenza, commonly known as flu, is a common viral infection rife in the UK in the winter months and spread from person to person by coughing and sneezing. Flu is not the same as the common cold: symptoms are usually more intense and occur more suddenly than mild cold symptoms - and they also tend to last longer.

Flu symptoms can include a high temperature upwards of 38C, tiredness and muscle weakness, headache, aches and pains and a dry or chesty cough. Although most people should start to feel better after a week, flu can be more dangerous for groups such as the elderly, small children and pregnant women.

There are three types of flu viruses - A, B and C, however, only types A and B affect humans. Type B generally causes milder symptoms than type A, and is more commonly seen in children. With flu estimated to cause between 3-5 million cases of severe illness and 250,000 – 500,000 deaths annually across the world (according to the WHO), it is important to understand how the virus may affect you and how you can protect yourself this flu season.

The flu vaccine

The flu vaccine is available to help prevent your body from contracting flu and is highly recommended for certain age groups. The vaccine is available free on the NHS for: anyone over the age of 65, pregnant women, people suffering from obesity, people with certain underlying health conditions and anyone with a weakened immune system.

The vaccine is made up of a combination of subcategories of flu types A and B. Due to the continuous evolution of the flu virus, these subcategories are reviewed regularly by the WHO to ensure the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Most people are healthy enough to fight off flu without experiencing any serious symptoms, which is why the vaccine is only available on the NHS to high-risk patients. Generally, flu can be managed by taking medications such as paracetamol in order to keep temperatures down and aches and pains under control. It is also important to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

Follow the correct advice, and most people start to feel better after one week. In most cases, visiting the doctor is unnecessary and actually risks spreading the virus further. Treatments such as antibiotics have no effect on the flu virus and therefore doctors can do little more than recommend standard over-the-counter medications.

Effectiveness of the flu vaccine

Although the efficiency of the flu vaccine changes every year based on the adaptation of each new strain of the virus, it has been estimated that the vaccine was 29% effective against influenza A and 46% effective against influenza B during the 2014 flu season. These figures are slightly lower than those seen in previous years.

Professor Paul Cosford, Public Health England’s Director for Health Protection, said:

“Whilst it’s not possible to fully predict the strains that will circulate in any given season, flu vaccination remains the best protection we have against an unpredictable virus which can cause severe illness and deaths each year among at-risk group. These include older people, pregnant women and those with a health condition, even one that is well managed.”

Express Pharmacy offers fast, effective prescription medication online. Find out more about our treatments.

Staying Flu-Free at the Business End of the Sporting Season

Posted Wednesday 08 April 2015 18:02 by Tim Deakin in Express Pharmacy

If you are a sports lover, April and May will always be among the most exciting times of year. From the Masters golf to the Boat Race, the start of the county cricket season to the London Marathon, spring is a hive of athletic activity. And that’s before we even consider the climax of the domestic rugby and football seasons.

If you play competitive sport and are looking forward to some big dates ahead, the last thing you will want to feel is the onset of cold or flu. In response, you may decide to try any number of solutions to help you recover.

Here's a selection of just a few popular remedies.

Vitamin C

You will be sad to learn that there’s little evidence supporting the myth that a daily dose of vitamin will prevent an individual of falling ill from cold or flu. While vitamin C is important to the daily diet, it will not directly combat a virus or bacteria. In some tests it has, however, been found to reduce the length and severity of colds by a small margin.


Zinc is also to have some small role to play in reducing the length and severity of a cold, particularly when consumed in tablet or syrup form. In fact, a 2013 report showed that taking zinc supplements within 24 hours of the onset of cold symptoms was most effective for healthy individuals.

Once again, however, those hoping to bypass illness altogether will not find this element to be a wonder cure, sadly. And long-term use of zinc is also not advised as it has been found to cause adverse effects such as nausea.


Herbal remedies have often been used in herbal remedies to treat illness. Indeed, everything from the root to the seeds have been promoted in tackling cold and flu symptoms.

In reality, the jury is still out on the effectiveness of such treatment. In 2013 a review of the trials on Echinacea and the common cold found that there were ‘weak benefits’ to be had from some Echinacea products.

One important point to note is that under-12s should not be given Echinacea, but that adults may take tablets or other products if they feel it to be of benefit.

Flu Vaccine

The flu vaccine is also a tried and tested solution that can prevent the onset of flu. As has been seen in the last 12 months, however, the changing nature of the flu virus requires protection to be updated annually – and that it cannot guarantee protection against all strains of the disease.

Overall, it must be said that many of the most popular remedies for colds and flu symptoms have little proof to substantiate their reputation. What is recommended by health professionals across the board is the importance of maintaining a balanced diet and partaking in regular exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle. The human body is well equipped to deal with these common diseases under most circumstances, and by keeping one’s health in good shape can aid the combatting of and recovery from cold or flu.

This means for the keen sportsman and woman, your natural fitness levels are more likely to stand you in good stead when feeling under the weather.

Want to speak to a pharmacist about disease prevention and general health? Contact us today on 0208 123 0703.

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