Help us help you this winter by getting your flu vaccination – it’s free because you need it
Protecting against flu
The flu virus occurs every year, usually in the winter, which is why it’s sometimes called seasonal flu and it can be far more serious than you think. It’s a highly infectious disease with symptoms that come on very quickly.
Symptoms of flu can be debilitating and can last for several weeks. Symptoms include:
- a sudden high temperature
- general aches and pains
- sore throat
- loss of appetite
Healthy individuals usually recover within two to seven days, but for some, the disease can lead to hospitalisation, permanent disability or even death. Colds are much less serious and usually start gradually with a stuffy or runny nose and a sore throat. At the first signs of a cough or cold get help from your pharmacist before it gets more serious. A bad bout of flu can be much worse than a heavy cold.
Aside from having your flu vaccine, the best way to prevent the spread of flu is to practice good hand hygiene. Catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue, throw the tissue away and wash your hands.
If you think you have flu, stay home and rest until you feel better. Call NHS 111 if you have a underlying health condition or feel really unwell.
Are you eligible for a free flu vaccination?
The best way to avoid catching and spreading flu is by having the flu vaccination.
The free flu vaccination is offered to those who are at increased risk from the effects of flu. These include people aged 65 and over, pregnant women, those with underlying health conditions and children (aged 2-9).
Flu is a highly infectious disease and can lead to serious complications if you have an underlying health condition such as COPD, bronchitis, emphysema, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease or a chronic neurological disease like multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy. Flu on top of health conditions like these increases your chance of serious health complications and a hospital visit.
Adults aged 65 and over
The flu vaccination continues to be available to adults aged 65 years old and over, who are more vulnerable and may suffer more than most people if they catch flu. This year a more effective vaccine is being given to those aged 65 and over, which is proven to give better protection against flu for people of this age.
Flu can be nasty for little children. Children also tend to be super-spreaders of flu so if they get it, they are likely to infect more vulnerable older family members. Children who get flu have the same symptoms as adults – including fever, chills, aching muscles, headache, stuffy nose, dry cough and sore throat. Some children develop a very high fever or complications of flu, such as bronchitis or pneumonia and may need hospital treatment. The flu vaccine will help protect your child from flu and also reduce the chance of it spreading on to others. For most children, the flu vaccine is not usually an injection, just a quick and easy nasal spray. Children aged 2 and 3 receive the vaccine through their GP and children reception and school years 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 receive it in school. If you have a child who is of the eligible age, make sure you sign the consent form allowing them to have the flu vaccine at school.
Pregnancy naturally weakens the body’s immune system and as a result flu can cause serious complications for you and your baby. One of the most common complications of flu is bronchitis, a chest infection that can become serious and develop into pneumonia. If you have flu while you’re pregnant, it could mean your baby is born prematurely or has a low birthweight, and may even lead to stillbirth or death. You may be less able to fight off infections, increasing the risk of becoming ill from flu. The flu jab is the safest way to help protect you and your baby against flu, no matter how many months pregnant you are or however fit and healthy you may feel.
If you are eligible for the flu vaccine, get it now to protect yourself this winter. Contact your general practice, pharmacist or midwife to get it.
Visit www.nhs.uk/fluvaccine for more information.
The flu vaccine
For 2018, there are 3 types of flu vaccine:
- a live quadrivalent vaccine (which protects against 4 strains of flu), given as a nasal spray. This is for children and young people aged 2 to 17 years eligible for the flu vaccine
- a quadrivalent injected vaccine. This is for adults aged 18 and over but below the age of 65 who are at increased risk from flu because of a long-term health condition and for children 6 months and above in an eligible group who cannot receive the live vaccine
- an adjuvanted trivalent injected vaccine. This is for people aged 65 and over as it has been shown to be more effective in this age group
Talk to your GP, practice nurse or pharmacist for more information about these vaccines.