Paula Radcliffe has revealed she was previously hospitalised due to complications caused by flu. The long-distance runner, who was diagnosed with asthma when she was 14, is now urging people in at-risk groups to get the flu vaccination to avoid suffering potential complications from the illness.
The NHS has warned that there may be more cases of flu than usual this winter, and those with certain health conditions such as diabetes and asthma may be more at risk of developing complications, such as pneumonia. But this is largely preventable, according to Paula.
Paula Radcliffe is in one of the high risk groups of suffering complications from flu
"People with long-term conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and autoimmune conditions are more at risk of getting serious complications from flu including bronchitis and pneumonia," Paula told HELLO! Online. "I've had asthma since I was 14 years old, which puts me at increased risk of these kinds of complications. Yet just over half of people under 65 in these clinical at-risk groups didn't get vaccinated against flu last year, despite it being available to them free of charge on the NHS."
She added: "According to the World Health Organization, the most effective way to help prevent flu and reduce the impact of an epidemic is vaccination. So I've teamed up with Sanofi Pasteur to help encourage people like me in 'at-risk' groups to take the risks of flu seriously and get vaccinated this winter."
Paula revealed that her asthma and the flu have affected her running career on several occasions, and it has taught her about the importance of being vaccinated against flu. "In 1993, I was still at University and desperately trying to get a manager. I caught the flu and had to miss the trials for the National Cross-Country Championships where I was hoping to be scouted, as I knew I wouldn't be able to finish the race and I couldn't risk my health," the athlete confided.
The athlete was diagnosed with asthma when she was 14
"Another time I was training up in the mountains in Albuquerque in New Mexico when I developed flu, it was quite scary - I was rushed to a medical clinic and put on a nebuliser." The experiences have made Paula realise that nobody is invincible, even someone as fit and healthy as herself.
“When you feel fit and healthy it is easy to think that you don't need to worry about having a flu vaccination. You think that if you are unlucky enough to contract flu, your body will be able to fight it off. However, even though I'm an athlete, and have my asthma under control, I know the consequences of flu could be serious."
The flu vaccine is available for free on the NHS for people over the age of 65, pregnant women, and children and adults with weakened immune systems or underlying health conditions, especially long-term heart or lung disease.
See the latest health and fitness stories here.