Flu is a highly infectious illness that spreads rapidly through the coughs and sneezes of
people who are carrying the virus.
You are eligible for an NHS flu vaccination if you are over 65 or in an "at-risk" group:
Your GP may advise you to have a flu jab if you have serious liver disease or a neurological condition such as multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy or learning disability.
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.
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- and three-year-olds, children in Reception Class and school years one, two, three and four will be offered the vaccine at school.
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 with a longterm health problem such as a serious respiratory or neurological condition. The vaccine is generally given to children aged 6 months to 2 years as an injection and aged 2-17 as a nasal spray. It is not suitable for babies under 6 months.
If you're the main carer of a family member who is either 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.
The injected flu vaccine contains inactivated, or killed, strains of the flu virus and therefore cannot cause flu.
The nasal spray flu vaccine for children contains live, but weakened forms of flu virus but again this vaccine does not cause flu.
If you have an egg allergy please discuss with a nurse before having a flu vaccination.
When you see your nurse for a flu jab, ask whether you also need the pneumococcal vaccine, which protects you against some forms of pneumococcal infection, including pneumonia.
Like the flu jab, the pneumococcal vaccine (also known as the pneumonia vaccine or "pneumo jab") is available free on the NHS to everyone aged 65 or over, and for younger people with some serious medical conditions. But it's a one-off jab rather than an annual one.
No vaccine is 100% effective; however, people who have had the flu jab are less likely to get flu. If you do get flu despite having the jab, it will probably be milder than if you haven't been vaccinated.
The flu jab doesn't cause flu as it doesn't contain live viruses. However, you may experience side effects after having the jab, such as a temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days afterwards. Your arm may feel sore at the site where you were injected. More severe reactions are rare.
The flu vaccine only protects against flu, not other illnesses caused by other viruses, such as the common cold.
You shouldn't have the flu vaccination if:
Even if you've already had a flu vaccine in previous years, you need another one each year. The flu vaccine may only protect you for a year because the viruses that cause flu are always changing