Why not getting a flu shot could prolong your hospital stay

Why not getting a flu shot could prolong your hospital stay

Nowadays we can expect to live for far longer than we ever did before. Those extra years of life mean older people are now more likely to live with multiple and complex long-term health conditions, or with frailty or dementia (1) – poor health that increases of us finding ourselves in hospital.

And nobody likes being in hospital. You’re away from your family and friends. You have to sleep in a strange bed, surrounded by unfamiliar people making strange noises in the night. And you’re bored out of your mind; you can’t just get up and go out whenever you want to.

I’m sure you’ll agree that keeping your hospital stay as short as possible will be on top of your mind if you do ever find yourself there. But what if you were to catch a virus during your stay? It may prolong your stay.

The flu while in hospital

Being in hospital doesn’t protect us from the flu. Hospitals can – and do – experience flu outbreaks (2). This happens most often when the virus is circulating in the local community.

If we weren’t lonely enough in hospital, catching the flu may also leave us feeling even more isolated (2)(3):

  • We might be placed in a private room away from the company of other patients.
  • Those caring for us might have to wear gloves, aprons and facemasks.
  • We might have to wear a facemask whenever we leave our room or ward.
  • Our visitors might be kept to a minimum, and they might also have to wear a facemask.
  • Children might not be allowed to visit at all.

Catching the flu might also prolong our hospital stay. It may, for instance, lead to our treatment or operation being delayed.

Avoiding the flu while in hospital

Getting a flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from the flu – in case of, before, during and after a hospital stay. Health experts recommend annual flu shots for people aged over 65, and people with underlying health problems (4).

As we get older, the flu vaccination may be less effective in preventing us from catching the flu. It will, however, reduce the severity and likelihood of complications and severe outcomes (5).

After your flu shot, it takes our bodies around seven to ten days to make the antibodies to the virus in the vaccine – the antibodies that will help protect us from the flu that’s currently circulating. Be sure to get your flu shot between late September and early November, so you’re ready for the winter (6).


References
(1) https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/integrated-care-case-study-older-peoples-care.pdf
(2) https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/infectioncontrol/healthcaresettings.htm
(3) https://www.thh.nhs.uk/documents/_Patients/PatientLeaflets/infectioncontrol/PIID162-Flu_Factsheet-Nov13.pdf
(4) http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/communicable-diseases/pages/news/news/2015/10/no-to-influenza-vaccination-costs-thousands-of-lives
(5) https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal)
(6) http://www.swbh.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Influenza-flu-ML4500.pdf

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