Flu is a highly infectious and very common viral illness that is spread by coughs and sneezes. It is not the same as the common cold. Flu is caused by a different group of viruses and symptoms tend to be more severe and last longer. You can catch flu all year round, but it is especially common in winter, which is why it is also known as ‘seasonal flu’.
What are the symptoms and how long will it last?
Flu causes a sudden high temperature, headache and general aches and pains, tiredness and a sore throat. You can also lose your appetite, feel nauseous and have a cough. If you have flu you generally start to feel ill within a few days of being infected. Symptoms peak after two to three days and you should begin to feel much better after a week or so, although you may feel tired for much longer.
Preventing the spread of flu
The flu virus is spread in the small droplets of fluid coughed or sneezed into the air by an infected person and also through touch. For example, if you have flu and touch common hard surfaces such as door handles with unwashed hands then other people who touch the surface after can pick up the infection. To prevent this from happening always wash your hands with soap and water, use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and put used tissues in a bin as soon as possible.
The flu jab
A flu vaccine is available free on the NHS for the following cohorts:
- Everyone aged 50 years and over
- Everyone under 65 years of age, including children and babies over 6 months of age, who has a long term condition such as heart problems, respiratory problems, kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes etc. (This list of conditions isn’t definitive. It’s always an issue of clinical judgement. Your GP can assess you to take into account the risk of flu making any underlying illness you may have worse, as well as your risk of serious illness from flu itself.)
- All pregnant women, at any stage of pregnancy
- All 2 and 3 year old children (provided they were aged 2 or 3 years old on 31 August 2021)
- All children in primary school
- All Year 7 to Year 11 secondary school-aged children
- Everyone living in a residential or nursing home
- Everyone who cares for an older or disabled person
- All frontline health and social care workers
Is there anyone who shouldn’t have the vaccination?
Almost everybody can have the vaccine, but you should not be vaccinated if you have ever had a serious allergy to the vaccine, or any of its ingredients. If you are allergic to eggs or have a condition that weakens your immune system, you may not be able to have certain types of flu vaccine – check with your GP. If you have a fever, the vaccination may be delayed until you are better.
The best way to protect yourselves and others from flu is to get vaccinated. Speak to your GP or practice nurse, or alternatively your local pharmacist, to book a vaccination appointment and get the best possible protection. For pregnant women, the vaccine may also be available through maternity services. The flu vaccine is free.
So make an appointment to receive the vaccine.
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