Nottingham and Nottinghamshire ICB
Flu occurs every year, usually in the winter, which is why it’s sometimes called seasonal flu. It is caused by influenza viruses that infect the windpipe and lungs, and because it’s caused by viruses and not bacteria, antibiotics won’t treat it.
How do you catch flu?
When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they spread the flu virus in tiny droplets of saliva over a wide area. These droplets can then be breathed in by other people or they can be picked up by touching surfaces where the droplets have landed.
You can prevent the spread of the virus by covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and you can wash your hands frequently or use hand gels to reduce the risk of picking up the virus.
But the best way to avoid catching and spreading flu is by having the vaccination before the flu season starts.
Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include:
- a sudden high temperature of 38C or above
- an aching body
- feeling tired or exhausted
- a dry cough
- a sore throat
- a headache
- difficulty sleeping
- loss of appetite
- diarrhoea or tummy pain
- feeling sick and being sick
The symptoms are similar for children, but they can also get pain in their ear and appear less active.
The flu vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine. It’s offered every year on the NHS to help protect people at risk of flu and its complications.
The best time to have the flu vaccine is in the autumn before flu starts spreading. But you can get the vaccine later.
Who can have the flu vaccine?
The flu vaccine is given to people who:
- are 50 and over
- have certain health conditions
- are pregnant
- are in a 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
The nasal spray flu vaccine is free on the NHS for:
- children aged 2 or 3 years
- all primary school children (reception to year 6)
- all year 7 to year 11 children in secondary school
- children aged 2 to 17 years with long-term health conditions
How effective is the flu vaccine?
- The flu vaccine gives the best protection against flu
- Flu vaccines help protect against the main types of flu viruses, although there’s still a chance you might get flu
- If you do get flu after vaccination, it’s likely to be milder and not last as long
- Having the flu vaccine will also stop you spreading flu to other people who may be more at risk of serious problems from flu
- It can take 10 to 14 days for the flu vaccine to work
For more information, visit the NHS website.