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Flu is a common respiratory infection caused by influenza (flu) viruses.

Flu is very easily spread to other people. You can spread the flu germ even if you don't have symptoms yourself. There are lots of steps you can take to help prevent flu spreading:

  • wash your hands often with warm water and soap
  • use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze
  • put used tissues in the bin as soon as possible

If you have symptoms of flu stay at home if you can, to avoid spreading germs to others.

Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include:

  • a sudden high temperature of 38°C or above
  • an aching body
  • feeling tired or exhausted
  • a dry cough
  • a sore throat
  • a headache

The flu vaccine is effective at reducing the risk of catching and passing on the flu germ. It can reduce your chances of becoming seriously ill from the problems that can be caused by flu infection. Doctors think flu germs might be around more than normal this year. Also, people's own immunity may not be as high as usual this winter, as not many people had flu last year due to following hands, face, space and ventilate guidance.

Flu symptoms usually resolve, although you may feel very ill for a few days. Read about the symptoms of flu and what to do about it.

This year it's more important than ever to take up your flu vaccine when offered. It's safe to have both the COVID-19 and flu vaccine at the same time. However, it's important not to delay taking up either vaccine, as you need to protect yourself from each virus as soon as you can.

Free flu jab

Certain groups of people are eligible for a free flu jab. These include people:

  • who are 50 and over (including those who'll be 50 by 31 March 2022)
  • have certain health conditions
  • are pregnant
  • are in a long-stay residential care
  • receive a carer's allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get sick
  • live with someone who is more likely to get infections (such as someone who has HIV, has had a transplant or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)
  • frontline health or social care workers

Find out more about the flu vaccination.

Children's flu vaccine

Children aged 2 to 3-years-old can get their flu jab from their GP. School aged children will be able to have theirs at school. It's delivered by the school aged immunisation team.

Where to get a free flu vaccine

If you're eligible for the free flu vaccine, you may get it from your own GP practice or any pharmacy offering NHS flu vaccinations. Pregnant women can ask their maternity provider for the free flu vaccine.

Types of flu vaccine

There are several types of flu vaccines available. You'll be offered one that's recommended for you based on your age. This means some people will be offered a flu vaccine that's in stock, while others who need a different type of vaccine may have to wait.

Providers of flu vaccination services have to offer the vaccine that is most effective for you. It's better to wait to get the right vaccine so that you get the most benefit from it.

Health and social care staff

If you work in health or social care then please make sure you're vaccinated against flu. People can pass on flu to others without having symptoms themselves. Vaccination is the best protection for you and the people you care for.