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The flu virus typically peaks around this time of year. The best way to help protect yourself and others from catching and spreading flu is to have the flu jab every year. Flu strains can change from year to year, which means last year’s jab may not protect you from this year’s strains. The vaccine usually provides protection for the duration of that year's flu season.
Getting vaccinated is important each year but especially this year, with the risk of both flu and COVID-19 outbreaks, people are urged to have the flu vaccine in order to protect themselves, their loved ones, and the NHS this winter.
Who can have the flu vaccine?
The flu vaccine is given free on the NHS to people who:
- are 50 and over (including those who'll be 50 by 31 March 2022)
- have certain health conditions
- are pregnant
- are in long-stay residential care
- receive a carer's allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get sick
- live with someone who is more likely to get infections (such as someone who has HIV, has had a transplant or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)
- frontline health or social care workers
This year, the flu nasal spray vaccine is also available for children:
- aged 2 and 3 years old on the 31 August 2021
- from Reception up to Year 11
You don’t need to wait to be invited to have your vaccine. If you are eligible you can make an appointment at your GP surgery or ask any pharmacy that provides the NHS service. If you are housebound, please speak to your GP practice about arranging a vaccination appointment.
Those who do not fall within the eligible categories can still obtain a flu vaccine from their local participating pharmacy for a small fee.
Common symptoms of flu include a high temperature, fatigue, headache, general aches and pains and a dry, chesty cough. If you are generally fit and healthy you can usually manage the symptoms at home yourself without seeing a doctor.
The best remedy is to rest at home, keep warm and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Paracetamol or ibuprofen may help lower a high temperature and relieve aches. A pharmacist will be able to provide advice on medication.
It’s important to remember that antibiotics are not effective against viruses.
People suffering with a cold or flu should avoid going into hospital, GP practice or other health setting to reduce the chance of vulnerable people catching the virus. The flu virus can be very dangerous for the elderly and the infirm particularly if they are already sick. This is a message that applies to people coming into hospital seeking treatment and to people coming to visit relatives.
Help to stop spreading colds and flu
Colds and flu are caused by viruses and easily spread to other people. Germs from coughs and sneezes survive on hands and surfaces for up to 24 hours. You are infectious until all symptoms are gone which usually takes a week or two.
You can help prevent colds and flu spreading by using tissues to ‘catch it, kill it, bin it’. Washing your hands regularly with soap and water destroys bugs that you may have picked up from touching surfaces used by other people, such as light switches and door handles.
It is also important to keep household items clean, including cleaning such items as cups, glasses and towels, especially if someone in your house is ill.
Hand sanitiser is effective against flu, so it’s important to use hand sanitiser when you are out in public, and at home if you’re living with someone who’s ill.
People with worsening symptoms or respiratory problems are advised not to visit a GP surgery or a hospital but to call their GP first or call NHS111 for further advice.