Flu is an unpleasant illness for most people, but for certain vulnerable groups the effects can be severe. People with a long term medical condition, pregnant women, those aged 65 or over and carers can get a flu vaccine free of charge on the NHS to help protect them against catching flu and developing serious complications. Children aged 2 and 3 can also help to be protected from flu with a quick nasal spray.
Long term conditions include Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), emphysema, bronchitis, asthma, diabetes and heart kidney or liver disease. This list of conditions isn't definitive, so for people with an underlying chronic condition it’s important to contact their GP or pharmacist so they can assess the risk of serious illness from flu. If someone has suffered a stroke they should also make sure they get the flu jab.
Women who are pregnant are advised to have the flu vaccine regardless of the stage of pregnancy they have reached. There is strong evidence to suggest pregnant women have an increased risk of developing complications if they get flu, as pregnancy naturally weakens the body’s immune system and they may be less able to fight off infections. The flu vaccine is safe to have at any stage of pregnancy from conception onwards.
People aged 65 and over are also eligible for a free flu vaccine. Veteran broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald recently joined forces with the NHS in North West London to urge eligible residents to take up the free flu vaccine. He said “This year it’s more important than ever because of the heavy flu season being reported overseas. And if you’re 65 or over, it’s free. Don’t put it off. Contact your GP or pharmacist to arrange your flu jab.”
Flu can be unpleasant for young children aged 2 and 3 and if they get it they can spread it around the whole family, so it’s important to ask the GP about the free flu nasal spray now. Children who get flu have the same symptoms as adults including fever, chills, aching muscles, headache, stuffy nose, dry cough and sore throat. Some children develop a very high fever or complications of flu such bronchitis or pneumonia and may need hospital treatment. So parents and guardians should ask their GP about the free flu vaccine for their child now. People are also eligible for a free flu jab if they receive a carer's allowance, or they are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill.
Key facts: Flu this winter
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