How to Protect Against the Flu

Flu is unpredictable. It is not possible to predict fully the strains that will circulate each year, and there is always a risk of a change in the virus. However, this does not happen very often. During the last ten years the vaccine has generally been a good match for the circulating strains.

The vaccine still provides the best protection available against an unpredictable virus that can cause severe illness.

The most likely viruses that will cause flu each year are identified in advance of the flu season in the UK and vaccines are then made to match them as closely as possible. The vaccines are given in the autumn ideally before flu starts circulating.

Flu vaccines protect against the main three or four types of flu virus most likely to be circulating.

Get your FREE flu vaccination

Don’t put off getting the flu vaccination. If you’re eligible, get it now. It’s free because you need it. The flu vaccine is the best protection we have against unpredictable viruses. It is vital that those eligible have it every year as the vaccine protects against different strains of flu which can change and/or evolve each year.

If you’re at risk of complications from flu, make sure you have your annual flu vaccine, available each year usually from October onwards.

There are two types of flu vaccine:

  • for adults and children under two - the injected flu vaccine
  • for children over the age of two - nasal spray flu vaccine

The flu vaccination is offered free of charge to people who are:

  • Those aged over 65 years old (including those becoming age 65 years by 31 March 2021)
  • Those in a clinical risk group such as those with:
    • Chronic (long-term) respiratory disease, such as severe asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or bronchitis
    • Chronic heart disease, such as heart failure or chronic kidney disease at stage three, four or five or chronic liver disease
    • Chronic neurological disease, such as Parkinson’s disease or motor neurone disease
    • Learning disability
    • Diabetes
    • Splenic dysfunction or asplenia
    • A weakened immune system due to disease (such as HIV/AIDS) or treatment (such as cancer treatment)
    • morbidly obese (defined as BMI of 40 and above)
    • ALL children aged 2 and 3 years old
    • ALL primary school aged children and year 7 in secondary school
  • All pregnant women (including those women who become pregnant during the flu season)
  • Household contacts of those on the NHS Shielded Patient List, or of immunocompromised individuals, specifically individuals who expect to share living accommodation with a shielded patient on most days over the winter and therefore for whom continuing close contact is unavoidable
  • Those who are in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or who are the main carer of an older or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill
  • Health and social care staff, employed by a registered residential care/nursing home or registered domiciliary care provider, who are directly involved in the care of vulnerable patients/clients who are at increased risk from exposure to influenza.

See your GP about the flu jab if you have any of the following problems (however old you are):

  • a serious heart complaint
  • a chest complaint or breathing difficulties, including asthma, bronchitis and emphysema
  • serious kidney disease
  • diabetes
  • lowered immunity due to disease or treatment such as steroid medication or cancer treatment
  • if you have had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
  • if you have a problem with your spleen or you have had your spleen removed
  • are seriously overweight (BMI of 40 or above)

If you are pregnant your GP or midwife can also provide the flu jab free of charge. Catching flu in pregnancy can lead to complications that can cause serious illness for mum and baby.

If you were vaccinated last year, you still need to get another this year as the flu viruses change each year. If you fall into one of the groups above then it’s on offer from the NHS because you need it. Most people do get their flu vaccination so don’t miss out on yours.

How do I get the flu vaccine?

The NHS flu vaccine is available for eligible adults at your GP surgery or a local pharmacy (Tameside pharmacies / Glossop pharmacies) offering the service. If you are over 65 years contact your GP/Pharmacist to receive a flu vaccine that’s designed to be more effective for your age group.

The best time to have a flu vaccine is in the autumn, from the beginning of October to end of November but remember NHS vaccines are available right through to March 31st. Ask your GP or pharmacist or if pregnant your midwife.

How do you catch flu and can I avoid it?

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.

Keep Warm Keep Well

Keeping warm, both inside and outdoors, over the winter months can help to prevent colds, flu and more serious health problems such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression. You should:

  • Wear several layers of light clothes, as these trap warm air better than one bulky layer
  • Heat your home to at least 18C (65F)
  • Stay active – try not to sit still for more than an hour or so

Keep out the cold at night

Keep your bedroom window closed on winter nights – breathing cold air can be bad for your health as it increases the risk of chest infections. Get the right help Make sure you’re receiving all the help you are entitled to. Learn how to make your home more energy efficient and take advantage of financial schemes to keep up with energy bills. See Keep Warm, Keep Well for details.

You can also check your heating and cooking appliances are safe and operating properly by contacting a Gas Safe registered engineer.

For more information on how to stay well this winter visit the NHS website.