Do I need a flu jab?
Flu (or influenza) is a highly infectious condition and can cause serious complications in people over 65 and those who have long term health conditions. It’s spread by the coughs and sneezes of people who have the flu virus.
Unlike a cold, flu symptoms - fever, chills, headaches and aching muscles with a cough and a sore throat - come on rapidly and can be severe. Even if you are normally fit and healthy, flu can make you feel very unwell.
In a year with a flu epidemic (a large outbreak around the country) up to 20,000 extra people from high risk groups can end up in hospital from flu related complications.
Who should get the jab?
You can protect yourself this winter by having a flu jab. People eligible for a flu jab from their GP include:
- people over 65 years of age,
- people who work with poultry,
- health and social care workers, and
- people living in residential care homes.
And people of any age should also be vaccinated if they have:
- asthma (and other chronic respiratory conditions),
- heart problems,
- kidney or liver disease,
- lowered immunity because of illness or medication, or
- have had a stroke or transient ischaemic attack (TIA).
Flu vaccinations are free for those considered to be at risk from serious complications. You may also be invited for a free flu jab if you have:
- multiple sclerosis (MS), or
- a degenerative condition of the central nervous system.
Why should I have the jab?
Even if you had a flu jab last year, you need to have a new vaccination this year.
This is because the viruses that cause flu change every year. So a new vaccination is needed to give you protection from the latest strain of flu.
About the jab
There is no guarantee that even if you have the flu jab you won’t get flu. But if you do get flu this winter, your symptoms will be less severe than if you hadn’t been vaccinated.
The flu vaccine doesn’t contain ‘live’ flu viruses, so you can’t catch the flu from your vaccination. Some people do have a mild reaction to the jab, and may have aching muscles, a slight temperature or a sore arm for a couple of days after the jab.
The vaccine is manufactured using hens’ eggs, so you should speak to your doctor if you have a serious allergy to hens’ eggs.
You may also benefit from the flu jab if you are pregnant; you should discuss this with your GP.