Paula Radcliffe health: Athlete is urging asthma suffers to get the flu jab – here’s why
Paula Jane Radcliffe, MBE, 45, has consistently raised the bar through her running achievements – she is a three-time winner of the London Marathon, three-time New York Marathon champion and Chicago Marathon winner.
She famously held the record for the fastest female marathoner of all time, a record that had gone unchallenged from 2003 until Brigid Kosgei broke it last month.
Alongside her world-beating performances, Paula lives with asthma, a condition she was diagnosed with when she was 14.
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Speaking to the Express.co.uk, she said: “My triggers are pollution, cigarette smoke, dust, certain pollens and extremes of temperature, particularly sudden cold.”
As Paula explains, through her athletic pursuits she has become attuned to her body and learned how to manage her condition, to recognise the triggers and symptoms to stay on top of it.
Paula takes a preventer inhaler every morning and night, and will take it with her if she is travelling or in her kit bag if she is training, which helps her to manage the condition and prepare for any situation.
As the NHS explained: “You use a preventer inhaler every day to reduce the inflammation and sensitivity of your airways, which stops your symptoms occurring. It’s important to use it even when you do not have symptoms.”
The most crucial part of managing her condition has been to get the flu vaccine every year, she says, and Paula is currently the face of an Asda Pharmacy campaign to urge people with asthma to do just that.
The push comes from personal experience: “If I would get a head cold – doesn’t have to be flu – nine times out of ten that would develop into Bronchitis if I tried to run through it, sometimes much worse such as pnuemonia so it is being aware of that and safeguarding it as much as possible.”
She added: “I got it the whole time I was at university. 1993 was the first year I got it. Particularly for me that was my first winter at university and in halls of residence where you are more susceptible to virus’ and they can quickly spread.”
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According to statistics revealed in a study commissioned by Asda Pharmacy, 1.2 million asthma sufferers put their health at risk each year by not getting there flu vaccine, and the commonly cited reasons range from not realising that they can access it for free or how easily obtained it is.
“For example at the Asda pharmacy you can go outside of work hours, up to ten o’clock at night over the weekend,” said Paula.
Another common myth surrounding the flu jab is that people can contract a form of the flu from getting the vaccine – a myth that Paula is also keen to bust: “You can’t you just get a bit of soreness around the injection site and a mild fever possibly for 24 hours but nothing like actually flu or the damage that could do to you and your health.”
As Paula points out, at risk groups can get the flu vaccine for free but anyone can and should get vaccinated for £7.
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In addition to people with underlying health conditions such as asthma, other at-risk groups include:
- Anyone aged 65 and over
- Pregnant women
- Children and adults with weakened immune systems
As the NHS explained: “Anyone in these risk groups is more likely to develop potentially serious complications of flu, such as pneumonia (a lung infection), so it’s recommended that they have a flu vaccine every year to help protect them.”
In addition to Asda Pharmacy or another local pharmacy, you can get the flu vaccine at:
- Your GP surgery
- Your midwifery service if they offer it for pregnant women
As the NHS notes, some community pharmacies now offer flu vaccination to adults (but not children) at risk of flu, including pregnant women, people aged 65 and over, people with long-term health conditions and carers.
How effective is the flu vaccine?
Flu vaccine offers the protection against an unpredictable virus that can cause unpleasant illness in children and severe illness and death among at-risk groups, including older people, pregnant women and those with an underlying medical health condition, the NHS explains.
Studies have shown that the flu vaccine will help prevent you getting the flu, although, as the health site notes, it will not stop all flu viruses and the level of protection may vary, so it’s not a 100 percent guarantee that you’ll be flu-free.
“But if you do get flu after vaccination, it’s likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it would otherwise have been,” the health site said.
Why get it every year?
Over time, protection from the injected flu vaccine gradually decreases, and flu strains often change.
New flu vaccines are produced each year, which is why people advised to have the flu vaccine need it every year, too, explains the NHS.
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