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Flu and the flu vaccine

Be a flu fighter

Flu is a common infectious viral illness spread by coughs and sneezes. It can be very unpleasant, and can make you feel so exhausted and unwell that you have to stay in bed an​d rest. People will usually begin to feel better within about a week - but for young children who contract the virus it can be particularly unpleasant.​

To raise awareness, we are running a video campaign featuring words written by Sue and Scott Morrish, whose son Sam died at the age of three after contracting flu. The Monkey featured in the advert was Sam’s. Sue and Scott wanted to make as many parents aware of flu’s dangers as possible, and we are grateful to them for contributing.

The children's vaccination is given as a painless nasal spray, and it is available free from GP surgeries for children aged two and three.*

People can catch flu all year round, but it is especially common in winter. Some of the main symptoms include: a high temperature; tiredness and weakness; a headache; general aches and pains; and a dry, chesty cough. Cold-like symptoms (such as a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, and a sore throat) can also be caused by flu, but they tend to be less severe than the other symptoms you have. More information on flu is available here.

A flu vaccination is available every year on the NHS to protect at-risk groups of adults and children.

Children at-risk groups:
  • children aged two and three (*born between 1 September 2013 and 31 August 2015)
  • children who are four years old (provided they were three on 31 August 2017)
  • children with a long-term health condition (such as diabetes or heart or lung disease)
  • children with weakened immune systems​

If your child is in one of these at-groups, talk to your GP to arrange an appointment to get them a free flu vaccination. If your child is in reception class and school years one, two three and four, they will be offered their vaccination in school.

Public Health England wrote to schools to answer questions about the safety and effectiveness of the children’s flu vaccine nasal spray.​ The letter is here​.

Adult at-risk groups:
  • anyone over the age of 65
  • pregnant women
  • adults with a long-term health condition (such as diabetes or heart or lung disease)
  • adults with weakened immune systems

If you are in one of these at-risk groups, talk to your GP to arrange an appointment to get your free flu vaccination.

You should have the flu vaccination every year so you stay protected, as the viruses that cause flu change every year.

Visit NHS Choices for more information on the flu vaccine for adults, pregnant woman and children.