The flu vaccine causes antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

How it works

The flu vaccine causes antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination.

These antibodies provide protection against infection by the small quantities of viruses that are in the vaccine.

Why you should get a shot annually

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the CDC monitor each new strain of the flu virus as it appears. They assess which may be the predominant virus in the following year's flu season and then, using this data, develop a vaccine to be used against the specific virus.

When to get vaccinated

Getting vaccinated before the flu season (June to September) starts will give your body a chance to build up full immunity, according to Clicks pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman.

“We make the vaccination available in all our clinics well before winter starts because it can take up to 10 days for the vaccination to reach its full effectiveness,” he said.

“You may experience mild flu-like symptoms as your immunity builds up,” Abdurahman added, “but most people have no problems with the vaccine at all.”

Preventative measures

Keep hydrated by drinking six to eight glasses of water a day, and avoid alcohol as this not only slows down your metabolism but also dehydrates your system.

Wash your hands regularly to protect yourself from cold and flu germs.

Why an antibiotic does not work

Taking antibiotics when you have a virus will not help, and in some cases they do more harm than good. They only work on a bacterial infection, and if taken when they are not needed, your risk of developing antibiotic resistance is increased.

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, these are the symptoms you should be looking out for:

* Sudden onset of fever;

* Acute upper respiratory symptoms: dry cough, sore throat;

* General symptoms: malaise, headache, fatigue, muscle pain and body aches, cold shivers and hot sweats;

* Some people may have vomiting and diarrhoea, though this is more common in children.