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.
Who should consider having a flu vaccination?
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 vaccination if you are:
- Over 65
- Living in a residential or nursing home
- The main carer of an older or disabled person
- A household contact of an immunocompromised person
- A frontline health or social care worker
- A child of a certain age
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 steroid medication or cancer treatment)
- Liver disease
- Had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
- A neurological condition, eg multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy or learning disability
- A problem with your spleen, eg sickle cell disease, or you have had your spleen removed
- Are seriously overweight (BMI of 40 and above).
- The flu vaccination - who should have it and why leaflet
- Protecting your child against flu - leaflet for parents
- All about flu and how to stop getting it - easy read version
- All about flu and how to stop getting it - easy read version for children
- The NHS website - information on flu vaccination for adults and children