What is flu?
Isn’t it just a heavy cold? How will I know I’ve got flu?
Flu occurs every year, usually in the winter, which is why it is sometimes called seasonal flu. It is a very infectious disease that can come on very quickly. The most common symptoms of flu are fever, chills, headache, pains in your joints and muscles and extreme tiredness. Healthy people usually recover within 2 – 7 days, but some people can develop serious complications and need to be admitted to hospital quickly.
Colds are much less serious and usually start slowly with a stuffy or runny nose and a sore throat. A bad bout of flu can be much worse than a heavy cold.
How do we prevent the spread of flu?
Flu is unpredictable and there can be different strains of the virus. However, over the last ten years the flu vaccine has generally been very good at targeting the circulating strains. This is available every year on the NHS to help protect adults and children who are most at risk of flu and its complications.
Am I at increased risk from the effects of flu?
Flu can affect anyone but if you have a long-term health condition flu can make it worse, even if the condition is well managed and you normally feel well.
We recommend that you have a flu jab (for free) or a flu nasal spray (if aged 2 to 17) if you are:
- aged 65 or over,
- aged 2 or 3 (by nasal spray),
- over six months of age and have one of the following conditions:
- chronic respiratory disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis and cystic fibrosis. Also people with severe asthma who need to continuously or repeatedly use their inhaler, take steroid medication, or who have been admitted to hospital because of their asthma
- chronic heart disease, including heart failure, congenital heart disease, and heart disease caused by high blood pressure
- chronic kidney disease, such as kidney failure and people who have had a kidney transplant,
- chronic liver disease, such as cirrhosis and chronic hepatitis,
- chronic neurological disease, such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, motor neurone disease or multiple sclerosis,
- a suppressed immune system, due to disease or treatment. This includes people who have a damaged or no spleen, those people with HIV, people having chemotherapy or other immunosuppressant treatment, and those on high doses of steroid medication.
- very overweight with a BMI over 40.
- living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility (not including prisons, young offender institutions or university halls of residence),
- receive carer’s allowance or you are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill,
- a frontline health or social care worker (this should be provided by your employer).
For more information please see the Department of Health Website.
Every autumn, around September, we start our flu clinics. We aim to vaccinate as many of those at risk, as indicated above.