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Flu Season in Australia: Your Guide to Staying Healthy and Protected

It’s that time of year again! As the mornings grow crisper and your breath turns to steam, the telltale signs of winter are all around. And with winter’s chill comes flu season. The last thing any student wants is for the flu to disrupt their studies (and social life!).

But don’t worry—we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know about staying healthy and flu-free this season. 

What is the flu?

The flu, or influenza, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness and, in some severe cases, can lead to hospitalisation or death. Symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Chills
  • Fatigue

Is it a cold or the flu?

As we enter flu season, it’s easy to confuse a common cold with the flu. Knowing the difference can help you manage your symptoms better.

Cold symptoms are usually milder and come on gradually. They include a runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, mild cough, sneezing, mild body aches, and sometimes a low-grade fever.

Flu symptoms appear suddenly and are more severe. They include a high fever, severe body aches, intense fatigue, dry cough, chills, and headaches.  Unlike a cold, the flu can cause serious health problems, especially in young children, older adults, and individuals with certain health conditions.

When in doubt, consult a healthcare provider, and remember that getting your flu shot is the best way to protect yourself this season.

Why get vaccinated?

The flu vaccine is designed to protect against the most common strains of the virus circulating each season. Here are some key benefits of getting the flu shot:

  • Reduces the risk of getting the flu, helping you stay healthy and focused on your activities.
  • If you do get the flu, the vaccine can make your illness milder, so you can recover more quickly.
  • Helps protect your friends and classmates, especially those who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications.
  • Reduces the risk of flu-related hospitalisations.

Where to get your flu shot in Australia

Here’s where you can score your flu shot in each state and territory, with some states offering them for free!

Western Australia (WA)

This year, the WA government are offering, free flu vaccinations throughout May and June. You can get your free flu jab at participating pharmacies, GP clinics and health centres. For more information, visit the WA Health Department.

Queensland (QLD)

Similarly, Queensland is offering free flu vaccinations until September for its residents. You can receive your free flu shots at various locations, including GP clinics and community health centres. Find more information on the QLD Health Department website.

New South Wales (NSW)

In NSW, flu shots are available at pharmacies and GP clinics. While free vaccinations are provided for certain groups (like those who are immunocompromised), others may need to pay. For more information, visit the NSW Health Department website.

South Australia (SA)

Flu shots are available in SA at GP clinics and pharmacies. Free vaccinations are provided for certain medical conditions, but others may need to pay. More information can be found on the SA Health Department website.

Tasmania (TAS)

The University of Tasmania is offering free flu shots to students until 31 July. Flu vaccinations are also available at pharmacies and GP clinics. For details, visit the Tasmanian Health Department website.

Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

In the ACT, flu vaccines are available at various clinics and pharmacies. Check with local providers for availability and costs. For more information, visit the ACT Health website.

Northern Territory (NT)

In the NT, flu vaccines are available at GP clinics and pharmacies. Check with local providers for costs. More details are available on the NT Government website.

Victoria (VIC)

In Victoria, flu vaccines are available at pharmacies and GP clinics for a fee. For more information, visit the Victorian Government Health website.

Note: Some education providers also offer flu shots, so check with your university or college health services to see if they provide this option.

Is the flu vaccine safe?

Yes, the flu vaccine is safe. The safety of influenza vaccines is continuously monitored by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and AusVaxSafety. These organisations conduct extensive surveillance to ensure the vaccines used in Australia meet the highest safety standards.

Data from this surveillance shows that the influenza vaccines used in Australia have an excellent safety profile. Common side effects are generally mild and temporary, such as soreness at the injection site, low-grade fever, or mild muscle aches. Serious side effects are extremely rare.

To stay informed, you can check the weekly updates provided by AusVaxSafety, which ensure transparency and keep the public updated on the safety of the flu vaccine.

Top tips for staying healthy this flu season

  1. Get vaccinated: The most effective way to prevent the flu is to get your flu shot each year. 
  2. Practice good hygiene: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitiser if soap and water aren’t available. Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  3. Stay home if sick: If you’re feeling flu symptoms, stay home to prevent spreading it to others. Rest and take care of yourself to recover more quickly.
  4. Cover your coughs and sneezes: Use a tissue or your elbow to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue away immediately and wash your hands.
  5. Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and manage stress to keep your immune system strong.
  6. Stay informed: Keep up-to-date with the latest flu information and vaccination clinics in your area. Follow public health advice and stay connected with reliable sources for updates.

By following these tips and getting vaccinated, you can protect yourself and others during flu season!