The flu virus strikes in winter and it can be far more serious than you think. Flu can lead to serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia, and it can be deadly.
Flu is a highly infectious illness that spreads rapidly through the coughs and sneezes of people who are carrying the virus.
That’s why the flu jab is free if you’re aged 65 or over, or if you have a long-term health condition. If you have children or grandchildren aged two, three or four, or in school years one or two, they are eligible for a free flu vaccination.
If you're at risk of complications from flu, make sure you have your annual flu vaccine any time from September onwards.
Flu symptoms can hit quite suddenly and severely. 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, but it can be more serious for certain people. Speak to your GP about a flu jab if you or someone you care for falls into one of these categories:
people aged 65 or over
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.
If you’re the carer of an elderly or disabled person, make sure they’ve had their flu jab. As a carer, you could be eligible for a flu jab too. Ask your GP for advice, or read our information about Flu jabs for carers.
If you're pregnant, you should have the flu jab, regardless of the stage of pregnancy you've reached. Pregnant women are more prone to complications from flu that can cause serious illness for both mother and baby.
If you are pregnant and catch flu, talk to your GP urgently as you may need treatment with antiviral medicine.
The flu vaccine for children is a nasal spray and is available each year on the NHS for two-, three- and four-year-olds plus children in school years one and two.
Children with a long-term health condition should also have a flu vaccination because their illness could get worse if they catch flu. This includes any child over the age of six months of age with a long-term health problem such as a serious respiratory or neurological condition.
If you have a child with a long-term condition, speak to your GP about whether they should have the flu vaccination. Some children with a long-term health condition may be advised to have the flu vaccine injection rather than the nasal spray.
If you think you or your child needs a flu vaccination, check with your GP, practice nurse or local pharmacist. Most GP surgeries arrange flu vaccination clinics around this time. It’s free and it's effective against the latest flu virus strains.
When you see your GP for a flu jab, ask whether you also need the pneumococcal vaccine, which protects you against some forms of pneumococcal infection including pneumonia.
Not all flu vaccines are suitable for children, so discuss this with your GP beforehand.
Speak to your GP, practice nurse or pharmacist if you have any further questions.