Seasonal Flu Vaccination
Flu (also known as influenza) is a highly infectious illness caused by the flu virus. It spreads rapidly through small droplets coughed or sneezed into the air by an infected person. For most people, flu is unpleasant but not serious. You will usually recover within a week.
Studies have shown that flu vaccines provide effective protection against the flu, although protection may not be complete and may vary between people. Protection from the vaccine gradually decreases and flu strains change over time. Therefore, new vaccines are made each year and people at risk of flu are encouraged to be vaccinated every year.
The flu vaccination is offered to people in at-risk groups. These people are at greater risk of developing serious complications if they catch flu, such as pregnant women and elderly people.
The flu vaccine- who is entitled?
A flu vaccine is available for free on the NHS for:
- anyone over the age of 65
- pregnant women
- anyone who is very overweight (with a body mass index over 40)
- children and adults with an underlying health condition (particularly long-term heart or lung disease)
- children and adults with weakened immune systems
An annual flu vaccine nasal spray is also now offered to healthy children aged two, three and four years old, and to children in school years one and two.
The best time to have the vaccine is in the autumn, between September and early November. If you think you might need it, contact your local GP surgery.
You should have the flu vaccination every year so you stay protected, as the viruses that cause flu change every year.
For more information on who should have the flu vaccine and how to get it, read the sections on the flu jab for adults, the flu jab for pregnant women and the children's flu vaccine.
What to do if you have flu like symptoms
If you're otherwise fit and healthy, there's usually no need to see a doctor if you have flu-like symptoms.
The best remedy is to rest at home, keep warm and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. You can take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower a high temperature and relieve aches if necessary.
Stay off work or school until you're feeling better. For most people, this will take about a week.
Read more about treating flu at home.
When to see your GP
Consider visiting your GP if:
- you're 65 years of age or over
- you're pregnant
- you have a long-term medical condition – such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease or a neurological disease
- you have a weakened immune system – for example, because you're having chemotherapy or have HIV
- you develop chest pain, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or start coughing up blood
- your symptoms are getting worse over time or haven't improved after a week.
In these situations, you may need medication to treat or prevent complications of flu.