A few days ago I willingly let someone stick a needle in my arm. And I was grateful to let them do it. It was time for my annual 'flu vaccination and, along with hundreds of others – my parents among them – I attended my local surgery early one Saturday morning and stood in line to get it.

Because I have asthma our wonderful NHS here in the UK lets me do this for free. As it does for all those it considers in 'at-risk' groups. That's not, of course people at risk from 'flu – that would be all of us – but those more at risk from nasty complications. Those with chronic respiratory diseases like asthma, bronchitis or COPD, even people with non-lung-related conditions can suffer very badly once they catch the 'flu too, and this includes those with heart conditions, kidney or liver disease, people who have had strokes, or are diabetic, or have a weakened immune system. In addition, pregnant women and anyone over the age of 65 are also entitled to a free vaccine. Because there are so many variations of 'flu, you need to be vaccinated each year – research by the World Health Organisation earlier in the year predicts which strains are likely to be the most prevalent the following winter, and a vaccine is developed to deal with those strains. 

I know many people are wary of getting vaccinated against anything. We all know the types of newspapers that put out scare-stories about problems with vaccinations. Of course, no medical procedure is 100 percent risk-free but problems are very, very rare and for many of us, the risk of not being vaccinated, and catching this highly infectious illness are much greater. Asthma UK – a fabulous source of information and support for asthma-affected people in the UK always advises those with asthma to take their condition seriously and to have an annual 'flu jab. I've also been offered, and taken, the swine 'flu vaccine and that against pneumococcal infections. Because I know that my asthma puts me at a much higher risk of developing complications. And, frankly, I feel I'd be an idiot to ignore that.

Some people, are convinced that having the 'flu jab will give them a mild dose of 'flu. This does not happen, since the vaccine contains only 'dead' viruses. But the vaccine does cause your body to create anti-bodies (which fight germs in your blood) and so, should you catch the 'flu virus later, your body already know which anti-bodies to use to fight off the disease more quickly and, most likely, prevent symptoms altogether.

Of course, like any immunisation or vaccine, there are some minor side effects. I always get a bit of a headache and become a bit achey all over – just signs that your immune system is working away. Sometimes I get a bruise, or a slight flushing or swelling of the skin around the injection site. Hardly surprising, is it? You just let someone stick a needle in your arm and inject a foreign substance! But compared with how 'flu can make you feel. And believe me you don't get 'a bit' of it, it's a teeny little price to pay. 

You see, I've had 'flu four times – twice as a child and twice as an adult. And, as anyone who's ever really had 'flu knows, it's no joke. Everything, from the tips of your toes to the roots of your hair hurts. It's impossible to 'do' anything. You cannot concentrate and you can't make it feel better. You just have to ride it out and wait. As a more recently diagnosed asthmatic the idea of catching 'flu again actually frightens me. And so I've always held that anyone who is offered the 'flu jab and refuses it, clearly never had a proper dose of it. And avoiding 'flu isn't as simple as it sounds. Yes, you can use antibacterial gel and so on, but when, according to the Department of Health a single sneeze from a person with 'flu can project 100,000 particles into the air, from a sneeze travelling at 80 miles per hour and reaching a distance of 30 feet, you can understand how an estimated 10 percent of the UK population catches 'flu each season.

If you're one of those people who just hate having needles stuck in your arm you really shouldn't worry. It takes only a second or two, and you don't have to look if you prefer not to. And from this year, thanks to new research, it's no longer necessary to wait in the surgery for 10 minutes after your jab. You can just go home. If you're lucky and you have a friendly surgery you might even get a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit!

So if you are entitled to a 'flu vaccine this year my advice is to have one. And have it now before the 'flu starts to circulate widely. It'll take just a few minutes out of your day and it may avoid you being laid up for days on end, or even saving your life. Do you really need to weigh that up?

Still not convinced? Check out these links:

The NHS Website information about 'flu jabs and why you should have one

Asthma UK's information on 'flu for asthmatics.