Flu can be serious
Flu is a colloquialism for influenza. The flu is an acute respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses A or B . Most people who get the flu recover completely in 1 to 2 weeks, but some people develop serious and potentially life-threatening medical complications, such as pneumonia.
the best way to avoid the flu is get vaccinated. Check if you are eligible for a free vaccine.
Who is eligible?
You are eligible to receive a free flu vaccine if you:
- are 65 years of age or over
- are pregnant
- have certain medical conditions
- are an adult who is very overweight
- are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility
- Carers of a person whose health or welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill
- Work in an adult care home and have regular client contact
Aged 65 and overs and the flu vaccine
You are eligible for the flu vaccine this year (2020-21) if you are aged 65 or over on March 31 2020 – that is, you were born on or before March 31 1955. So, if you are currently 64 but will be 65 on March 31 2020, you do qualify.
Pregnant women and the flu vaccine
If you're pregnant, it is important you have a flu vaccine, regardless of the stage of pregnancy you are.. That's because there's strong evidence to suggest pregnant women have an increased risk of developing complications if they get flu.
Having a flu vaccine will help:
- reduce your chance of getting serious complications of flu, such as pneumonia, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy
- reduce your risk of having a miscarriage, or your baby being born prematurely or with a low birth weight
- protect your baby as they will continue to have some immunity to flu for the first few months of their life
You should have a flu injection. 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. Talk to your GP or midwife if you have any questions about the vaccination.
Read more about the flu vaccine in pregnancy.
Flu vaccine for people with medical conditions
Annual flu vaccine is free on the NHS to people from 6 months of age with a long-term health condition. That includes these types of illnesses:
- chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma (which requires an inhaled or tablet steroid treatment, or has led to hospital admission in the past), 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, or a stroke or mini stroke
- problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
- a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medication such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
This list of conditions isn't definitive. It's always an issue of clinical judgement. Your GP can assess you individually to take into account the risk of flu exacerbating any underlying illness you may have, as well as your risk of serious illness from flu itself.
If you live with someone who has a weakened immune system, you may also be advised to have a flu vaccine to help protect them. Speak to your GP surgery or pharmacist about this.
Flu vaccine if you're very overweight
Annual flu vaccine is recommended for anyone aged 18 or over who is very overweight, with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more.
Read more about BMI and how to check it.
Flu vaccine for children
The flu vaccine is recommended for:
- children six months and over with a long-term health condition
- children aged two and three years
- children in primary school (reception class to school year 6).
Children aged between six months and under two years of age who are eligible for the flu vaccine should have a flu vaccine injection.
Children eligible for the flu vaccine aged between two and 17 will usually have the nasal spray flu vaccine.
Read about who should have the children's flu vaccine.
Flu vaccine for health and social care workers
Outbreaks of flu can occur in health and social care settings, and, because flu spreads easily, staff, patients and residents are all at risk of infection.
If you're a front-line health and social care worker, you are recommended to have a flu vaccine to protect yourself, your colleagues and other members of the community, and to protect the people in your care.
It is your employer's responsibility to arrange vaccination for you.
Flu vaccine for care home staff
Staff in adult care homes or children’s hospices who have regular contact with residents can have a free NHS flu vaccine at many community pharmacies. This will help to protect the care home residents and reduce the spread of flu.
If you care for someone whose health or welfare may be at risk if you fall ill, speak to your GP surgery or community pharmacist about having a flu vaccine. Even if you don’t live with the person you care for you may still be eligible for a free vaccine.
Read more about the flu vaccine for carers on the Carers UK website.