For most people, flu is an unpleasant illness, but it's not serious. If you are otherwise healthy, you will usually recover from flu within a week.
However, certain people are more likely to develop potentially serious complications of flu, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. These people should have a flu jab each year.
People who should have a flu jab
The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to people who are at risk to ensure that they are protected against catching flu and developing serious complications.
You are eligible to receive a free flu jab if you:
- are 65 years of age or over
- are pregnant
- have certain medical conditions (see below)
- are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility
- receive a 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
- are a healthcare worker with direct patient contact or a social care worker (see below)
Pregnant women and the flu jab
If you're pregnant, you're advised to have the injectable flu vaccine, regardless of the stage of pregnancy you've reached.
That's because there's strong evidence to suggest that pregnant women have an increased risk of developing complications if they get flu.
If you're pregnant, you will benefit from the flu vaccine because it:
- reduces your chance of getting serious complications of flu, such as pneumonia, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy
- reduces your risk of having a miscarriage or your baby being born prematurely or with a low birthweight, due to flu
- will help protect your baby because they will continue to have some immunity to flu for the first few months of their life
It's safe to have the flu vaccine at any stage of pregnancy, from conception onwards. The vaccine doesn't carry any risks for you or your baby. Talk to your GP or midwife if you are unsure about the vaccination.
Read more about the flu jab in pregnancy.
Flu jab for people with medical conditions
The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to anyone with a serious long term health condition. That includes these types of illnesses:
This list of conditions isn't definitive. It's always an issue of clinical judgement. Your GP can assess you individually to take into account your risk of flu exacerbating any underlying illness you may have, as well as your risk of serious illness from flu itself. The vaccine should always be offered in such cases, even if you are not technically in one of the risk groups above.
If you live with someone who has a weakened immune system, you may also be advised to have a flu vaccine. Speak to your GP about this.
Flu vaccine for children
The flu vaccine is recommended for:
- children over the age of six months with a long term health condition
- healthy children aged two and three
Children aged between six months and two years of age who are eligible for the flu vaccine should have the flu jab.
Children eligible for the flu vaccine aged between two and 18 will usually have the flu vaccine nasal spray.
Read about who should have the children's flu vaccine.
Flu jab for health and social care workers
Outbreaks of flu can occur in health and social care settings, and, because flu is so contagious, staff, patients and residents are all at risk of infection.
If you're a frontline health and social care worker, you are eligible for an NHS flu jab to protect yourself, your colleagues and other members of the community. It is your employer's responsibility to arrange vaccination for you. Public Health England has this advice on flu vaccination of health and social care workers.
Flu jab for carers
If you care for someone who is elderly or disabled, speak to your GP about having a flu jab along with the person you care for.
Read more about flu jab for carers.