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 2-10).
If you get flu on top of an underlying health condition like: COPD; bronchitis, emphysema; diabetes; heart kidney or liver disease or if you have suffered a stroke, it can easily develop into something very serious and mean you have to go in to hospital. Don’t put off getting the flu vaccination. It’s free because you need it.
This season there are two vaccines available for adults aged between 18 and 64 years. Both protect against four strains of flu, one is grown in eggs and the second is cell-based. Both vaccines are considered equally suitable for this age group.
Contact your GP or pharmacist to get the flu jab now.
Adults aged 65 and over
People aged 65 and over are more likely to experience serious complications from flu.
This season there are two vaccines available for those aged 65 and over. The first is the vaccine which was first available last season (the trivalent ‘adjuvanted’ vaccine). A second vaccine, made in cells rather than eggs, is being made available for the first time.
Both vaccines are considered equally suitable for this age group and should offer better protection for older people against flu than standard egg-based vaccines.
For most children the flu vaccine is not an injection, just a quick nasal spray.
Flu can be horrible for little children so it is important to protect them from becoming unwell. Children are also ‘super-spreaders’ of flu and vaccinating them can protect more vulnerable members of the community.
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.
This year, the children’s programme is being expanded to include all primary school children up to the age of 10 and 11 in school year 6. That means that all primary school children will now be offered the vaccine for the first time, as well as all two and three-year olds (provided they were aged two or three on 31 August 2019).
In addition, all children who are in clinical risk groups should be offered flu vaccination from the age of six months.
Most children will be offered the nasal spray vaccine which has been shown to be effective and has been used in millions of children for many years. The nasal spray is not licensed for children under the age of 2 years and some children are unable to have the nasal spray due to medical conditions. Eligible children with these medical conditions should be offered an injected quadrivalent flu vaccine.
Don’t put off it off. Ask your GP about the free flu nasal spray and other childhood vaccinations now.
However fit and healthy you might feel, if you are pregnant you need the flu jab now. The flu jab is the safest way to help protect you and your baby against flu. It’s free because you need it.
Pregnancy naturally weakens the body’s immune system and as a result flu can cause serious complications for you, for your pregnancy or for your baby. You may be less able to fight off infections, increasing the risk of becoming ill as a result of flu.
You can get vaccinated at any stage during your pregnancy. So ask your GP, pharmacist or midwife about the free flu jab now.
Carers of older or disabled people
If you are the main carer of an older or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill, you may be eligible for the free flu jab so speak to your GP to check.
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.