Winter flu

Flu is a highly infectious illness that spreads rapidly through the coughs and sneezes of people who are carrying the virus.

If you are at risk of complications from flu, make sure you have your annual flu vaccine available from your GP practice.

There are two types of flu vaccine:

  • the injected flu vaccine for adults and children under-two
  • the nasal spray flu vaccine for children over the age of two

The effects of flu

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. Flu is caused by a virus and not bacteria, so antibiotics won't treat it.

Anyone can get flu, but it can be more serious for certain people, such as:

  • people aged 65 or over
  • people who have a serious medical condition
  • pregnant women 

If you are in one of these groups, you are more vulnerable to the effects of flu (even if you are 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 the flu jab?

  • Over 65’s and at risk groups, including pregnant women
    At risk groups cover those with a long term health condition, i.e. diabetes, those with a weakened immune system (e.g. HIV or cancer patients), heart disease, chronic respiratory disease (e.g. severe asthma, COPD, bronchitis), kidney disease, liver disease, chronic neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and people in long stay residential homes
  • 2, 3 and 4 year olds - From 1 September 2013, a nasal spray flu vaccine will be offered to all children aged two, three and four years as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme. Please download The flu vaccination winter 2014 to 2015: who should have it and why (includes information for children and pregnant women) leaflet for more information.
  • Health and social care workers
  • Carers - people who are in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an older or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill. By getting the flu jab, carers also reduce the chance of them transmitting flu to the person they care for.