Flu occurs every year, usually in the winter, which is why it's sometimes called seasonal flu. It's a highly infectious disease with symptoms that come on very quickly. Colds are much less serious and usually start gradually with a stuffy or runny nose and a sore throat. A bad bout of flu can be much worse that a heavy cold.
The most common symptoms of flu are fever, chills, headache, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, and extreme tiredness. Health individuals usually recover within two to seven days, but for some the disease can lead to hospitalisation, permanent disability or even death.
The vaccine provides the best protection available against a virus that can cause severe illness. The most likely virus that will cause flu are identified in advance of the flu season and vaccines are then made to match them as closely as possible.
The vaccines are given in the autumn ideally before flu starts circulating. During the last ten years the vaccine has generally been a good match for the circulating strains.
Flu can affect anyone but if you have a long term health condition the effects of flu can make it worse even if the condition is well managed and you normally feel well.
You should have the free flu vaccine if you are:
- Pregnant or have a long term condition such as; a heart problem
- A chest complaint or breathing difficulties, including bronchitis, emphysema or severe asthma
- A kidney disease
- Lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (such as a steroid medication or cancer treatment)
- Liver disease
- Had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
- A neurological condition, e.g. sickle cell disease, or you have had your spleen removed
- Are seriously overweight (BMI of 40 and above)
You can get the free flu vaccine from your general practice (GP), or it may also be available from your pharmacist or midwife. Book your vaccination appointment and get the best possible protection.
Visit the NHS flu vaccine website for more information.