Get vaccinated and beat the flu this winter
We've teamed up with Nicola, an immunisation specialist leading the Beat Flu campaign, to bring you this blog about the importance of getting a flu vaccination this winter.
Flu can be a very serious illness. It can cause complications such as pneumonia and is very infectious. Every winter there are outbreaks of flu, especially in hospitals and care homes. Having a yearly flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself against flu.
Flu is more likely to be serious:
- for children
- if you’re pregnant
- if you’re 65 or older, or
- if you have a long-term health condition, including lung conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchiectasis and pulmonary fibrosis
Flu vaccines are recommended for people in these at risk groups as well as for their carers.
What is the flu vaccine?
Flu viruses are constantly changing. Each year the vaccine is changed to match the flu viruses likely to be circulating. Having a flu vaccine is the single best way to protect against catching and spreading flu. The flu vaccine for adults does not contain any live virus so it is impossible to catch flu from the vaccine.
There are different types of flu vaccine available. Some work better in different age groups. For the best protection, it is important to have a flu vaccine recommended for your age. Your health care professional will be able to tell you which flu vaccine is best for you.
It’s best to have your vaccine before the flu virus starts to circulate, which is usually mid-December. You can have it later in the flu season but having it before flu circulates is best.
Flu vaccines do not protect against colds and other flu-like illnesses. If you are in a risk group, you should have a flu vaccination every year. Flu vaccines are quick and safe, could prevent weeks of serious illness and keep you out of hospital.
Find out more about who should have the flu vaccine today.
I have a long-term lung condition. Why do I need the flu vaccine?
If you have a long-term lung condition such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma, you are more likely to get complications from flu which can be serious or even fatal. The vaccine is free on the NHS to people in high risk groups, this includes those with asthma on inhaled or oral corticosteroids.
If you are in a risk group, even if you feel healthy you should have a flu vaccine. It is important you’re protected.
Children from 6 months old with chest problems or breathing difficulties are vulnerable to flu and its complications. Make sure they get their vaccine this year.
Is there anyone who shouldn’t have a flu vaccine?
Very few people cannot have a flu vaccine.
If you’ve had a serious allergic reaction to a flu vaccine (or any part of it) before, don’t have that vaccine again. If you’re not sure if this is you - check it out with your nurse or doctor. They will be able to advise you.
You should tell the nurse or doctor if you have a serious egg allergy. You can still have a flu vaccine, but special arrangements may be needed.
If you’re unwell with a high temperature, delay having the vaccine until you feel better.
No flu vaccine is licensed for use on babies under 6 months.
Will I get any side effects from a flu vaccine?
After having a flu vaccine, you might experience some side effects. These can include:
- a slight temperature
- feeling tired
- aching muscles for a day or 2
After an injection, your arm may be a bit red and sore. The nasal spray may cause a runny or blocked nose. Other side effects are very rare.
Overall, flu vaccines are very safe. They will not give you flu.
I want to get the flu vaccine. What should I do now?
If you are an adult in a risk group, are pregnant, or if you are aged 65 or over, you might be able to get your flu vaccine for free at your GP surgery or at some community pharmacies. If you’re not sure if you’re eligible for a free flu vaccine, talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
Children aged 2 or 3 (on 31 August 2019) will get their vaccine at their GP surgery. Children in primary school (from reception up to year 6) will generally have their flu vaccine in school. If your child is in a risk group, over 6 months old and not in primary school they can get their flu vaccine at their GP surgery.
Find out more about who should get a flu vaccine and if you're eligible for a free flu vaccine today.
The vaccine is free to people in risk groups, this includes those with chest conditions such as COPD, or asthma that requires inhaled or oral corticosteroids. If you're not able to get the vaccine for free, you can get it at your local pharmacy or pharmacy counter for a small cost.
What should I do if I catch the flu?
Most people with flu do not need to visit their GP.
If you’re in a risk group and think you have flu, you should talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist as soon as you can. There are medicines called antivirals that you can be given, but these can only help if you take them within 2 days of the start of the illness.
Find out more about the flu on the NHS website.