Flu and Flu Vaccine
Flu is a highly infectious, spread by coughs and sneezes. Flu symptoms can hit quite suddenly and they usually include fever, chills, headaches and aching muscles. You can often get a cough and sore throat.
Because flu is caused by a virus and not bacteria, antibiotics won’t treat it.
Anyone can get flu and for most people, flu is an unpleasant illness, but it’s not serious. If you are otherwise healthy, you will usually recover from flu within a week. However, it can be more serious for the over-65s, people with serious medical conditions, and pregnant women. If you’re at risk of complications from flu, make sure you have your annual flu jab, available from October onwards. If you are in one of these groups, you’re more vulnerable to the effects of flu (even if you’re fit and healthy) and could develop flu complications, which are more serious illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia, which could result in hospitalisation.
Flu can also make existing medical conditions worse.
Who Should Have a Flu Jab?
The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to people who are at risk to ensure that they are protected against catching flu and developing serious complications.
People who are eligible to receive a free flu jab:
- Anyone who is 65 years of age or over
- Pregnant women
- Children (who are over six months old) and adults with certain long-term medical conditions (see below)
- Children (who are over six months old) and adults with weakened immune system
- Those who are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility
- Carers for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
- Healthcare workers with direct patient contact or a social care worker
- All two and three year old children
Flu Jab for People with Medical Conditions
The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to anyone with a serious long term health condition. That includes these types of illnesses:
- Chronic (long-term) respiratory disease, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or bronchitis
- Chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
- Chronic kidney disease
- Chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
- Chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease or motor neurone disease
- Problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease, or if you have had your spleen removed
- Weakened immune system due to conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or as a result of medication such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
- If you live with someone who has a weakened immune system, you may also be advised to have a flu vaccine
Pregnant Women and the Flu Jab
If you’re pregnant, you’re advised to have the injectable flu vaccine, regardless of the stage of pregnancy you’ve reached. That’s because there’s strong evidence to suggest that pregnant women have an increased risk of developing complications if they get flu.
If you’re pregnant, you will benefit from the flu vaccine because it:
Reduces your chance of getting serious complications of flu, such as pneumonia, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy
Reduces your risk of having a miscarriage or your baby being born prematurely or with a low birth weight, due to flu
Will help protect your baby because they will continue to have some immunity to flu for the first few months of their life
It’s safe to have the flu vaccine at any stage of pregnancy, from conception onwards. The vaccine doesn’t carry any risks for you or your baby.
Flu Jab for Children with Medical Conditions
Children between the ages of two and 18 who are at extra risk from flu because they have a long-term health condition, such as diabetes, heart or lung disease, will have the annual flu nasal spray instead of the annual flu jab, which they were previously given. Two and three-year-old healthy children will also have the flu nasal spray.
Children at extra risk between the ages of six months and two years will continue to receive the annual flu jab.