Seasonal flu peaks each winter between December and March. In the average winter, up to 15% of the population will be affected by seasonal flu.
The Department of Health is urging everyone aged 65 and over or in an 'at risk group' to make sure they get their free flu jab now, before flu starts to circulate. If you qualify for a free flu jab you can get it by contacting your GP or your local community pharmacy.
The jab can never offer 100% protection from seasonal flu, but does have a success rate of between 70% and 80%. If you catch the flu with the flu jab you are more likely to get milder symptoms.
Who can get a free annual flu jab?
Everyone aged 65 and over qualifies for a free, annual, seasonal flu jab. In addition, adults and children aged six months to 65 years with the following conditions should also contact their GP for their free seasonal flu jab:
- a heart problem
- a chest complaint or breathing difficulties including, bronchitis, emphysema
- a kidney disease
- lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (such as steroid medication or cancer treatment)
- a liver disease
- had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
- a neurological condition eg multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy
- a problem with, or removal of, their spleen e.g. sickle cell disease.
Contact your GP or local community pharmacy now to get your free seasonal flu jab.
All children are offered free inoculation against flu through their schools. If they have missed their school session they can attend one of the catch up sessions listed here.
What is seasonal flu?
People with seasonal flu typically have a fever or a high temperature (over 38°C / 100.4°F) and two or more of the following symptoms
- unusual tiredness
- runny nose
- sore throat
- shortness of breath or cough
- loss of appetite
- aching muscles
- diarrhoea and/or vomiting
In those circumstances you should stay at home, keep warm and rest, let a member of your family or friend know that you are ill, drink plenty of liquids and eat what you can. If you are in an 'at risk group' or your symptoms get worse and you have chest pains or experience shortness of breath, you should contact your GP.
You can find out more about seasonal flu on the NHS Choices website.
It's important not to under estimate the impact of seasonal flu. Every year it accounts for approximately 8,000 deaths. It can bring on serious complications for people in 'at risk groups' and lead to other serious illnesses such as pneumonia.