FOR UK HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS ONLY

This section is intended for healthcare professionals and associated healthcare employees who are involved in patient care or service provision for influenza immunisation in the UK only – this includes (but is not limited to) GPs, nurses, practice managers, pharmacists, and pharmacy counter assistants.

I AM A HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL OR ASSOCIATED HEALTHCARE EMPLOYEE I AM NOT A HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL OR ASSOCIATED HEALTHCARE EMPLOYEE

Flu jabs are available at your local GP surgery or pharmacy.

You may be eligible for a free NHS flu jab if you fall into an 'at-risk' category. Otherwise, private flu vaccinations are available and cost around £10.

You may be at greater risk from flu

Risks from flu in pregnancy

Whilst you are pregnant, you obviously want to stay as fit and healthy as possible, and this includes avoiding the flu. Of course, many mums-to-be who get the flu will recover quickly but there may be an increased risk of complications for both you and your baby.1

 

Risks for you

When you are pregnant, changes to your immune system, heart and lungs may mean that you experience flu more severely than a woman who is not pregnant2.

You may also be more likely to develop a more serious infection such as pneumonia or bronchitis1.

These complications can occur at any time during pregnancy, but are most likely during the later stages1.

 

Risks for your baby

If you catch or develop flu while you’re pregnant, there may be an increased risk of a premature delivery, your baby having a lower birth weight, as well as possibly experiencing stillbirth in the most serious cases1.

 

Protecting yourself and your baby from flu

The flu viruses circulate predominantly during the winter. So if you’re pregnant, you should think about how to help protect yourself as the flu season approaches.

Vaccination is the most effective way to avoid developing the flu3, and you can receive it at any stage of your pregnancy. It may also help to continue help protecting both yourself and your baby for the first few months after you give birth1.

Get vaccinated as soon as possible, ideally before the end of November, to ensure you’re protected right through the winter4.

 

Is a flu vaccination safe for you and your baby?

The safety and tolerability of vaccines is monitored by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) as well as by vaccine manufacturers.

In addition, the Department of Health recommend that pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy (first, second or third semester) should be vaccinated against flu each year5.

A review of studies on safety of Influenza vaccines in pregnancy concluded that inactivated influenza vaccine can be administered during any trimester of pregnancy5

 

Other ways to avoid infection

You can also take additional steps, such as avoiding public transport and crowds. However, if you’re unable to avoid public transport (for example, if you need to get to hospital for treatment or an appointment), wash your hands after every trip, use the antiseptic hand gel dispensers in the hospital regularly, cover your nose and mouth if you sneeze or cough, and dispose of any used tissues as quickly as possible.

 

You can get your free NHS flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy, while most pharmacies in the UK also offer private jabs.

*Free NHS jabs are available only to those who fall within the current risk categories.

 

References

  1. NHS Choices. The flu jab in pregnancy. August 2016. Available online: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/flu-jab-vaccine-pregnant.aspx (accessed July 2018)
  2. Yudin MH. Risk management of seasonal influenza during pregnancy: current perspectives. Intl J Womens Health. 2014;6:681-89.
  3. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet, January 2018. Available online: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal) (accessed July 2018)
  4. Public Health England. National flu immunisation programme plan for 2018 to 2019. March 2018. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flu-immunisation-programme-plan (accessed July 2018)
  5. Public Health England. Immunisation against infectious disease: the green book. Chapter 19: Influenza, August 2018. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_
    data/file/456568/2904394_Green_Book_Chapter_19_v10_0.pdf

    (accessed September 2018)

You may be at greater risk from flu

Risks from flu in people with chronic respiratory disease

If you have any kind of chronic respiratory disease, avoiding all infections that could worsen your symptoms or make breathing more difficult is important, and this includes the flu.

Flu can also worsen your condition and symptoms1 and lead to hospitalisation. People with chronic respiratory disease account for around 17% of deaths from flu each year2.

These respiratory diseases include (amongst others)3:

  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Emphysema

 

Help to protect yourself from flu

The flu viruses predominantly circulate during the winter. So you should think about how to help protect yourself as the flu season approaches, as this is when you are most vulnerable.

Vaccination is the most effective way to avoid developing the flu4, and if you have chronic respiratory disease, you are eligible for a free flu vaccination on the NHS as you are classified at high risk of complications3. Get vaccinated as soon as possible, ideally before the end of November, to ensure you’re protected right through the winter5.

Research showed that patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease who were vaccinated against the flu suffered fewer exacerbations, hospitalisations, and outpatient visits, as well as lower mortality6.

 

Other ways to avoid infection

You can also take additional steps, such as avoiding public transport and crowds. However, if you’re unable to avoid public transport (for example, if you need to get to hospital for treatment or an appointment), wash your hands after every trip, use the antiseptic hand gel dispensers in the hospital regularly, cover your nose and mouth if you sneeze or cough, and dispose of any used tissues as quickly as possible.

 

You can get your free NHS flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy, while most pharmacies in the UK also offer private jabs.

*Free NHS jabs are available only to those who fall within the current risk categories.

 

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People at High Risk of Developing Flu-Related Complications. August 2018. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm (accessed September 2018)
  2. Department of Health. An Outcomes Strategy for COPD and Asthma: NHS Companion Document. May 2012. Available online:
    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_
    data/file/216531/dh_134001.pdf
     (accessed July 2018)
  3. NHS Choices. Who should have the flu vaccine. July 2016. Available online: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/pages/who-should-have-flu-vaccine.aspx (accessed July 2018)
  4. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet, January 2018. Available online: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal) (accessed July 2018)
  5. Public Health England. National flu immunisation programme plan for 2018 to 2019. March 2018. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flu-immunisation-programme-plan (accessed July 2018)
  6. Bekkat-Berkani R et al. Seasonal influenza vaccination in patients with COPD: a systematic literature review. BMC Pulmonary Medicine. 2017;17:1-15.

You may be at greater risk from flu

Risks from flu in people with chronic heart disease

If you have chronic heart disease you have an increased risk of developing serious complications from flu1,2. This is because your heart has to work harder to combat the flu virus and is therefore, under increased stress3.

There is also evidence that suggests you are more likely to experience a heart attack during, or immediately after, having the flu2 than someone without heart disease.

According to US statistics, during the 2015-16 flu season, 41% of people admitted to hospital with flu had heart disease1, including:

  • Heart failure
  • Hypertensive heart disease
  • Pulmonary heart disease
  • Heart valve disorders
  • Arrhythmias including atrial fibrillation
  • Congenital heart defects

Flu can also interfere with medication you may be taking for your heart condition, such as a blood-thinning drug like Warfarin, as it can affect the clotting-rate of your blood2. And some over-the-counter cold and flu treatments, such as painkillers or cough medicines, can’t be used alongside prescription heart condition medications2. Always speak to your pharmacist if you buy any cold or flu medication and discuss any other medicines you may be taking.

 

Protecting yourself from flu

The flu viruses predominantly circulate during the winter. So you should think about how to help protect yourself as the flu season approaches, as this is when you are most vulnerable.

Vaccination is the most effective way to avoid developing the flu4, and if you have chronic heart disease, you are eligible for a free flu vaccination on the NHS.

Get vaccinated as soon as possible, ideally before the end of November, to ensure you’re protected right through the winter5.

 

Other ways to avoid infection

You can also take additional steps, such as avoiding public transport and crowds. However, if you’re unable to avoid public transport (for example, if you need to get to hospital for treatment or an appointment), wash your hands after every trip, use the antiseptic hand gel dispensers in the hospital regularly, cover your nose and mouth if you sneeze or cough, and dispose of any used tissues as quickly as possible.

 

You can get your free NHS flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy, while most pharmacies in the UK also offer private jabs.

*Free NHS jabs are available only to those who fall within the current risk categories.

 

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu and Heart Disease & Stroke. August 2016. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/heartdisease/ (accessed July 2018)
  2. British Heart Foundation. Flu. Available online: https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/living-with-a-heart-condition/weather-and-your-heart/seasonal-influenza (accessed July 2018)
  3. British Heart Foundation. Cold weather and your heart. Available online: https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/living-with-a-heart-condition/weather-and-your-heart/cold-weather (accessed July 2018)
  4. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet, January 2018. Available online: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal) (accessed July 2018)
  5. Public Health England. National flu immunisation programme plan for 2018 to 2019. March 2018. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flu-immunisation-programme-plan (accessed July 2018)

You may be at greater risk from flu

Risks from flu in people with chronic kidney disease

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a long-term condition where your kidneys do not function properly, which can gradually worsen over time.

If you have CKD at stage 3, 4 or 5 (sometimes known as Established Renal Failure or ERF), you are at a greater risk of becoming seriously ill from flu than the general population1. This is because it is harder for your immune system to fight off the infection, and could lead to problems with other organs in your body1.

In fact, evidence suggests that people with chronic long-term illnesses, including kidney disease, are 11 times more likely to die as a result of complications from flu than someone with healthy kidneys not in at risk groups2.

If you catch flu while you are waiting for a transplant and a kidney becomes available, there is a risk that you may not be well enough to have the operation. So it’s really important to try and stay as healthy as possible.

 

Cold and flu medications

Some over-the-counter cold and flu medications may be unsuitable or even dangerous for people with kidney disease, depending on their ingredients. You should always ask your pharmacist, GP or specialist for advice3.

 

Protecting yourself from flu

The flu viruses predominantly circulate during the winter. So you should think about how to help protect yourself as the flu season approaches.

Vaccination is the most effective way to avoid developing the flu4, and if you have CKD at stage 3, 4 or 5, kidney failure, nephrotic syndrome or you have had a kidney transplant, you are eligible for a free flu vaccination on the NHS.

If you have had a kidney transplant, you should also talk to your doctor about how best to help protect yourself from flu. This is because some of the anti-rejection medications you may need to take may also make the flu vaccine less effective5.

 

Other ways to avoid infection

You can also take additional steps, such as avoiding public transport and crowds. However, if you’re unable to avoid public places (for example, if you need to get to hospital for dialysis), use the antiseptic hand gel dispensers in the hospital regularly, cover your nose and mouth if you sneeze or cough, and dispose of any used tissues as quickly as possible.

Get vaccinated as soon as possible, ideally before the end of November, to ensure you’re protected right through the winter6.

 

You can get your free NHS flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy, while most pharmacies in the UK also offer private jabs.

*Free NHS jabs are available only to those who fall within the current risk categories.

 

References

  1. Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee. Flu Vaccinations and Chronic Kidney Disease. Available online: http://psnc.org.uk/avon-lpc/wp-content/uploads/sites/23/2015/07/Chronic-Kidney-Disease-and-Flu-Vaccine-Importance.pdf (accessed July 2018)
  2. Kidney Research UK. Kidney patients are at higher risk – don’t forget your flu jab! October 2016. Available online: https://www.kidneyresearchuk.org/news/kidney-patients-at-higher-risk–dont-forget-your-flu-jab (accessed July 2018)
  3. NHS Choices. Chronic kidney disease. Pharmacy remedies and kidney disease. August 2016. Available online:www.nhs.uk/conditions/kidney-disease/pharmacy-remedies-kidney-disease (accessed July 2018)
  4. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet, January 2018. Available online: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal) (accessed July 2018)
  5. National Kidney Foundation. Flu Shot May be Less Effective after Transplant. July 2009. Available online: https://www.kidney.org/news/ekidney/july09/FluShot_july09 (accessed September 2018)
  6. Public Health England. National flu immunisation programme plan for 2018 to 2019. March 2018. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flu-immunisation-programme-plan (accessed July 2018)

You may be at greater risk from flu

Risks from flu in people with chronic liver disease

If you suffer from chronic liver conditions or liver disease, you will probably already have had to make changes to your lifestyle to try and stay as healthy as possible – this includes avoiding the flu.

Many people think of flu as just a bad cold, but if you have liver disease, it could make you seriously ill. You are particularly at risk of flu developing into something more serious1.

Having liver disease weakens your immune system’s ability to fight off the flu virus in the first place2 and it may limit the type of medications you can take for cold and flu symptoms3.

But even more seriously, having flu can also actually make liver diseases such as cirrhosis worse3, or even increase the rate of rejection and drug toxicity if you have had a liver transplant3. So it’s really important to do everything you can to stay healthy.

 

Protecting yourself from flu

The flu viruses predominantly circulate during the winter. So you should think about how to help protect yourself as the flu season approaches, as this is when you are most vulnerable.

Get vaccinated as soon as possible, ideally before the end of November, to ensure you’re protected right through the winter4. Patients most at risk include those waiting for a liver transplant or those who have cirrhosis3.

 

Other ways to avoid infection

To avoid infections, you can also take additional steps, such as avoiding public transport and crowds. However, if you’re unable to avoid public transport (for example, if you need to get to hospital for treatment or an appointment), wash your hands after every trip, use the antiseptic hand gel dispensers in the hospital regularly, cover your nose and mouth if you sneeze or cough, and dispose of any used tissues as quickly as possible.

 

You can get your free NHS flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy, while most pharmacies in the UK also offer private jabs.

*Free NHS jabs are available only to those who fall within the current risk categories.

 

References

  1. British Liver Trust. Get the flu jab. Available online: https://www.britishlivertrust.org.uk/our-work/campaigns/get-the-jab/ (accessed July 2018)
  2. New York State DOH. You, Liver Disease and the Flu. Available online: https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/2448.pdf (accessed July 2018)
  3. Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee. Flu Vaccinations and Chronic Liver Disease. July 2016. Available online: http://psnc.org.uk/avon-lpc/wp-content/uploads/sites/23/2015/07/Liver-Disease-and-Flu-Vaccine-Importance.pdf (accessed July 2018)
  4. Public Health England. National flu immunisation programme plan for 2018 to 2019. March 2018. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flu-immunisation-programme-plan (accessed July 2018)

You may be at greater risk from flu

Risks from flu in people with chronic neurological disease

If you have a chronic neurological disease, or you care for someone who has, you need to keep a close eye on your or their overall health and wellbeing. This includes avoiding infections such as flu, which can have serious complications for people with neurological diseases1 such as:

  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Motor Neurone Disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Wilson’s Disease
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Some of these neurological conditions affect the lungs and make breathing difficult2. Flu is a respiratory virus which can make breathing even more difficult3, and can also result in serious secondary infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia1; which can lead to a hospital stay and a long recovery3.

Neurological conditions can also make it hard for you to regulate your body temperature3. If you catch flu, you are likely to develop a fever, which can make your symptoms worse3. For example, one third of people with relapsing-remitting Multiple Sclerosis will experience a relapse within 6 weeks of having flu3.

Some people with neurological conditions may also find it hard to express themselves and tell if they feel unwell3. This can delay treatment, which could also make their symptoms worse3. So it’s important to prevent them from contracting flu in the first place.

 

Protecting yourself from flu

The flu viruses predominantly circulate during the winter. So you should think about how to help protect yourself as the flu season approaches.

Vaccination is the most effective way to avoid developing the flu4, and if you have a chronic neurological disease, you are eligible for a free flu vaccination on the NHS.

Getting a flu vaccination doesn’t just help protect you, it can also help to prevent you spreading the flu to your spouse, children and grandchildren. If you have a carer or home help, it is worth asking them to get vaccinated too, as this will also reduce your risk of infection.

 

Other ways to avoid infection

You can also take additional steps, such as avoiding public transport and crowds. However, if you’re unable to avoid public transport, wash your hands after every trip, use the antiseptic hand gel dispensers in the hospital regularly, cover your nose and mouth if you sneeze or cough, and dispose of any used tissues as quickly as possible.

 

Get vaccinated as soon as possible, ideally before the end of November, to ensure you’re protected right through the winter5.

You can get your free NHS flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy, while most pharmacies in the UK also offer private jabs.

*Free NHS jabs are available only to those who fall within the current risk categories.

 

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People at High Risk of Developing Flu-Related Complications. August 2018. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm (accessed September 2018)
  2. Mangera Z et al. Practical approach to management of respiratory complications in neurological disorders. Int J Gen Med. 2012;5:255–63.
  3. South West Screening & Immunisation Team. Flu Vaccinations and Chronic Neurological Disease. Available online: http://www.southdevonandtorbayccg.nhs.uk/your-health/Documents/Neurological%20Disease%20and%20Flu%20Vaccine%
    20Importance.pdf
    (accessed July 2018)
  4. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet, January 2018. Available online: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal) (accessed July 2018)
  5. Public Health England. National flu immunisation programme plan for 2018 to 2019. March 2018. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flu-immunisation-programme-plan (accessed July 2018)

You may be at greater risk from flu

Risks from flu in people with diabetes

While catching flu is never a pleasant experience, it can have more serious implications if you have a condition such as diabetes.

If you have diabetes and catch the flu, diabetes management may become more difficult1. This applies to all types of diabetes (Type 1, Type 2 and diet-controlled diabetes)2.

You are also at greater risk of developing complications such as pneumonia, as your body is under increased stress1. And for people with diabetes, having flu can also affect your blood sugar levels, increasing your risk of developing short-term complications such as ketoacidosis and hyperglycaemia1. So it’s important to test your blood sugar more regularly than normal if you do get flu1.

 

Flu medications and diabetes

If you catch or develop flu, it’s also worth considering that some over-the-counter medications contain high levels of sugar, which could affect your blood sugar management1. Your pharmacist will be able to advise you on which medications you should or shouldn’t take.

 

Protecting yourself from flu

The flu viruses predominantly circulate during the winter. So you should think about how to help protect yourself as the flu season approaches.

Vaccination is the most effective way to avoid developing the flu3, and if you have diabetes, you are eligible for a free flu vaccination on the NHS.

Get vaccinated as soon as possible, ideally before the end of November, to ensure you’re protected right through the winter4.

 

Other ways to avoid infection

You can also take additional steps, such as avoiding public transport and crowds. However, if you’re unable to avoid public transport (for example, if you need to get to hospital for treatment or an appointment), wash your hands after every trip, use the antiseptic hand gel dispensers in the hospital regularly, cover your nose and mouth if you sneeze or cough, and dispose of any used tissues as quickly as possible.

 

Will a flu vaccination affect my blood sugar levels?

You may find you have higher blood sugar levels following vaccination4, so make sure you test your blood regularly after your vaccination. If your blood sugar levels remain consistently high after a few days, you should contact your doctor or other healthcare professional.

 

You can get your free NHS flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy, while most pharmacies in the UK also offer private jabs.

*Free NHS jabs are available only to those who fall within the current risk categories.

 

References

  1. Diabetes.co.uk. Flu and Diabetes. http://www.diabetes.co.uk/flu-and-diabetes.html (accessed July 2018)
  2. Public Health England. Immunisation against infectious disease: the green book. Chapter 19: Influenza, August 2018. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/
    456568/2904394_Green_Book_Chapter_19_v10_0.pdf

    (accessed September 2018)
  3. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet, January 2018. Available online: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal) (accessed July 2018)
  4. Public Health England. National flu immunisation programme plan for 2018 to 2019. March 2018. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flu-immunisation-programme-plan (accessed July 2018)

 

You may be at greater risk from flu

Risks from flu in people with asplenia and/or dysfunction of the spleen

Asplenia refers to someone who has had his or her spleen removed and dysfunction of spleen is where the spleen does not function as well as it should. This could lead to an increased risk of complications if you have the flu1.

Your spleen plays a vital role in your immune system by clearing bacteria from your blood, and controlling your levels of white and red blood cells and platelets1. It also removes old or damaged red blood cells1. If this doesn’t happen, an infection such as flu can quickly develop into something more serious1,2. This is known as sepsis, a potentially fatal condition where the body attacks its own organs and tissue in reaction to an infection3.

If you catch flu, and you have no protection from a working spleen, you are also at an increased risk of developing complications such as a secondary lung infection or pneumonia4.

 

Protecting yourself from flu

The flu viruses circulate predominantly during winter. So you should think about how to help protect yourself as the flu season approaches.

Vaccination is the most effective way to avoid developing the flu5. The good news is that if you have asplenia or dysfunction of the spleen, you are eligible for a free flu vaccination on the NHS. This includes people who have sickle cell disease or coeliac disease, which can lead to dysfunction of the spleen6.

Get vaccinated as soon as possible, ideally before the end of November, to ensure you’re protected right through the winter7.

 

Other ways to avoid infection

You can also take additional steps, such as avoiding public transport and crowds. However, if you’re unable to avoid public transport (for example, if you need to get to hospital for treatment or an appointment), wash your hands after every trip, use the antiseptic hand gel dispensers in the hospital regularly, cover your nose and mouth if you sneeze or cough, and dispose of any used tissues as quickly as possible.

 

You can get your free NHS flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy, while most pharmacies in the UK also offer private jabs.

*Free NHS jabs are available only to those who fall within the current risk categories.

 

References

  1. NHS Choices. Spleen problems and spleen removal. June 2016. Available online: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/spleen-problems-and-spleen-removal/ (accessed July 2018)
  2. NHS Choices. Causes of sepsis. February 2016. Available online: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sepsis/causes/ (accessed July 2018)
  3. The UK Sepsis Trust. What is Sepsis? Available online: https://sepsistrust.org/about/about-sepsis/ (accessed July 2018)
  4. Patient. Preventing Infection after Splenectomy. March 2018. Available online: http://patient.info/health/preventing-infection-after-splenectomy-or-if-you-do-not-have-a-working-spleen (accessed July 2018)
  5. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet, January 2018. Available online: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal) (accessed July 2018)
  6. Public Health England. Immunisation against infectious disease: the green book. Chapter 19: Influenza, August 2018. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_
    data/file/456568/2904394_Green_Book_Chapter_19_v10_0.pdf

    (accessed September 2018)
  7. Public Health England. National flu immunisation programme plan for 2018 to 2019. March 2018. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flu-immunisation-programme-plan (accessed July 2018)

You may be at greater risk from flu

Risks from flu in people with immunosuppression

Immunosuppression refers to a reduction in the effectiveness of your immune system. This can happen for several reasons:

  • A range of medications for autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)
  • Cancer treatments like chemotherapy
  • Diseases such as HIV/AIDs, which suppress the entire immune system1

Immunosuppression can even be induced deliberately if you have an organ or bone marrow transplant, to prevent your body rejecting the new organ or cells1.

However it is caused, having a weak immune system puts you at a greater risk of catching or developing infections and this includes flu2. It also puts you at a greater risk of developing complications from flu, such as secondary lung infections or pneumonia2.

 

Protecting yourself from flu

The flu viruses predominantly circulate during the winter. So you should think about how to help protect yourself as the flu season approaches, as this is when you are most vulnerable.

Vaccination is the most effective way to avoid developing the flu3, and if you have immunosuppression, for whatever reason, you are eligible for a free flu vaccination on the NHS.

Get vaccinated as soon as possible, ideally before the end of November, to ensure you’re protected right through the winter4.

 

Other ways to avoid infection

If you have immunosuppression, your doctor may have already advised you to avoid crowded public places (particularly enclosed spaces such as restaurants and shops) to reduce your risk of contact with people who may have flu or any other infections.

If you’re unable to avoid public transport, try and wash your hands regularly (for example, after every trip), cover your nose and mouth if you sneeze or cough, and dispose of any used tissues as quickly as possible. If you live with other people, or you have regular visitors, it’s also a good idea for them to receive a flu vaccination too, to reduce the risk of them passing the virus onto you.

 

You can get your free NHS flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy, while most pharmacies in the UK also offer private jabs.

*Free NHS jabs are available only to those who fall within the current risk categories.

 

References

  1. Kunisaki K et al. Influenza in immunosuppressed populations: a review of infection frequency, morbidity, mortality, and vaccine responses. Lancet Infect Dis. 2009;9(8):493–504.
  2. NHS Wales Direct. Flu, Seasonal, February 2018. Available online: http://www.nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk/encyclopaedia/f/article/flu,seasonal/ (accessed August 2018)
  3. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet, January 2018. Available online: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal) (accessed July 2018)
  4. Public Health England. National flu immunisation programme plan for 2018 to 2019. March 2018. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flu-immunisation-programme-plan (accessed July 2018)

 

 

You could still be at risk from flu

Everyone is at risk from flu

Although you do not fall into an at-risk group, you can still catch flu. If you don’t want flu to stop you from doing the things you love, or can’t afford to be off work, you can help protect yourself and those around you, by getting a flu vaccination.

You can get your free NHS flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy, while most pharmacies in the UK also offer private jabs.

*Free NHS jabs are available only to those who fall within the current risk categories.

You may be at greater risk from flu

Risks of flu if you are a carer

If you care for someone who is elderly, ill or disabled, you need to ensure you stay as fit and healthy as possible, so that you can help them to do the same.  Whether you are a long-term carer, or you are nursing a spouse or relative short-term, it’s important that you try and avoid catching flu.

 

The risks for the person you care for

If you are the solitary carer for someone and you fall ill, you may not be able to look after them as well as they need. You also risk passing on the infection to them, which could be dangerous if they have health conditions that could put them at risk of developing serious complications from the flu1. This includes people who1,2:

These complications from flu could include pneumonia1, a higher risk of hospitalisation (or even death)3 or it could make their existing health condition worse3.

 

The risks for you

If you are over 65 or have any of the above health conditions yourself, you are also at risk of developing the same serious complications from flu.

 

Protecting yourself and the person you care for from flu

The flu viruses predominantly circulate during the winter. So you should think about how to help protect yourself and the person you care for as the flu season approaches.

Vaccination is the most effective way to avoid developing the flu4, and if you receive a carer’s allowance or are the main carer for an elderly, ill or disabled person, you may be eligible for a free flu vaccination on the NHS5.

Get vaccinated as soon as possible, ideally before the end of November, to ensure you’re protected right through the winter2.

 

Other ways to avoid infection

If the person you care for has regular visitors, it is worth asking them to follow good hygiene practices to help reduce their likelihood of passing on the flu virus. These may include thoroughly washing their hands before greeting or touching the person you care for, or covering their mouth and nose with a handkerchief when coughing or sneezing.

You can get your free NHS flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy, while most pharmacies in the UK also offer private jabs.

*Free NHS jabs are available only to those who fall within the current risk categories.

 

References

  1. NHS Choices. The Flu Vaccine. July 2016. Available online: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/flu-influenza-vaccine/ (accessed July 2018)
  2. Public Health England. National flu immunisation programme plan for 2018 to 2019. March 2018.  Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flu-immunisation-programme-plan (accessed July 2018)
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People at High Risk of Developing Flu-Related Complications, August 2018. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm (accessed September 2018)
  4. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet, January 2018. Available online: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal) (accessed July 2018)
  5. Carers UK. Flu Jabs for Carers. Available online: http://www.carersuk.org/help-and-advice/health/looking-after-your-health/flu-jabs (accessed July 2018)

You may be at greater risk from flu

Risks from flu if you are a healthcare worker or social care staff

Because flu is contagious, an outbreak can occur in places such as hospitals and residential homes1. This puts patients, residents, staff and visitors at risk of infection1.

If you are a frontline healthcare or social care worker, it’s important to help protect yourself from flu so that you can continue to care for others, but you also need to help protect the people you come into direct daily contact with.

This is because you risk passing on the flu virus to them, which could be dangerous if they have health conditions that could put them at risk of developing serious complications from the flu2. Particularly if you work with people who come into the following high-risk groups:

These complications from flu could include pneumonia2, a higher risk of hospitalisation or even death,3 or it could make their existing health condition worse3.

 

Protecting yourself and the people you care for from flu

The flu viruses predominantly circulate during the winter. So you should think about how to help protect yourself and the people you care for as the flu season approaches.

Vaccination is the most effective way to avoid developing the flu4. Prevention is particularly important for healthcare workers, as you can contract and pass on the virus days before you experience any symptoms or take any time off sick5.

Vaccination can also help to prevent the spread of flu in residential homes6, and can help to keep the NHS running effectively during a flu outbreak, when GPs and hospitals may be particularly busy6.

It is your employer’s responsibility to arrange and cover the costs of a flu vaccination for you7:

  • If you are a front-line NHS worker with direct patient contact, the NHS will pay for your vaccination
  • If you are a front-line social care worker, your employer – whether it is your local authority or a private company – should pay for your vaccination

Get vaccinated as soon as possible, ideally before the end of November, to ensure you’re protected right through the winter8.

You can get your free NHS flu vaccination* at your GP surgery, occupational health department, or in a pharmacy, while most pharmacies in the UK also offer private jabs.

*Free NHS jabs are available only to those who fall within the current risk categories.

 

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interim Guidance for Influenza Outbreak Management in Long-Term Care Facilities. March 2017. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/infectioncontrol/ltc-facility-guidance.htm (accessed July 2018)
  2. NHS Choices. The Flu Vaccine. July 2016. Available online: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/flu-influenza-vaccine/ (accessed July 2018)
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People at High Risk of Developing Flu-Related Complications. August 2018. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm (accessed September 2018)
  4. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet, November 2016. Available online: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal) (accessed July 2018)
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How Flu Spreads. August 2018. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/spread.htm (accessed September 2018)
  6. NHS Choices. Flu Vaccine FAQs. July 2016. Available online: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/pages/flu-vaccine-questions-answers.aspx (accessed July 2018)
  7. NHS Choices. Who should have the flu vaccine. July 2016. Available online: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/pages/who-should-have-flu-vaccine.aspx (accessed July 2018)
  8. Public Health England. National flu immunisation programme plan for 2018 to 2019. March 2018. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flu-immunisation-programme-plan (accessed July 2018)

You may be at greater risk from flu

Risks from flu if you are a child

Flu can be a more serious infection for young children than adults1. They are at greater risk of developing complications such as bronchitis, pneumonia or a middle ear infection, which may require hospital treatment1.

It is also especially important for children with long-term health conditions to avoid catching flu, as they are at increased risk of developing the above complications1 and their symptoms may also worsen. These conditions include1:

 

Protecting children from flu

Vaccination is the most effective way to avoid developing the flu2, and children in certain age groups and those with certain health conditions are offered a free flu vaccination on the NHS. Please check eligibility with your GP3. The vaccine is usually given as a single spray squirted up each nostril. Children unable to have the nasal spray vaccine may be able to have the injectable flu vaccine instead1.

 

Other ways to avoid infection

You can also take additional steps, such as avoiding public transport and crowds with your child. However, if you’re unable to avoid public transport (for example, if you need to get your child to hospital for treatment or an appointment), wash your and their hands after every trip, use the antiseptic hand gel dispensers in the hospital regularly, cover your nose and mouth if you sneeze or cough, and dispose of any used tissues as quickly as possible.

 

Why vaccination for children is especially important

Children are great at spreading germs – including flu. This is because they may not use tissues properly or wash their hands after coughing or sneezing.1

So vaccinating children can actually help protect a wider population – including their parents or carers, elderly relatives such as grandparents, and younger siblings (not to mention classmates and friends)1. This is known as herd immunity.

Children in eligible age groups and those with certain health conditions, should routinely be offered a flu vaccination at your GP practice or at their school as part of the NHS Childhood vaccination programme. Some pharmacies in the UK also offer free vaccination for children. Please ask your GP surgery or your child’s school for more information.

 

 

References

  1. NHS Choices. Children’s Flu Vaccine. July 2016. Available online: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/pages/child-flu-vaccine.aspx (accessed July 2018)
  2. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet, January 2018. Available online: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal) (accessed July 2018)
  3. Public Health England. National flu immunisation programme plan for 2018 to 2019. March 2018.  Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flu-immunisation-programme-plan (accessed July 2018)

You may be at greater risk from flu

Risks from flu in those aged 65 years and over

As we get older, it’s important to stay as fit and healthy as possible, and this includes avoiding the flu.

If you are 65 years of age or over, you are at a greater risk of developing severe complications of flu, such as pneumonia1.

This is because the immune response may also be less effective as you get older or you may have more underlying diseases than younger adults, which may reduce your resistance to infection2.

It is estimated that in the US up to 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older and between 50 percent and 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalisations have occurred among people in that age group3.

If you have another disease or condition such as diabetes or heart problems, you should always check with your pharmacist before buying over-the-counter cold and flu treatments, as these may affect other medications you have been prescribed.

 

Protecting yourself from flu

The flu viruses predominantly circulate during the winter. So you should think about how to help protect yourself as the flu season approaches, as this is when you are most vulnerable.

Vaccination is the most effective way to avoid developing the flu4, and if you are aged 65 and over you are eligible for a free flu vaccination on the NHS. Get vaccinated as soon as possible, ideally before the end of November, to ensure you’re protected right through the winter5.

Getting a flu vaccination doesn’t just help protect you, it can also help to prevent you spreading the flu to your spouse, children and grandchildren. If you have a carer or home help, it is worth discussing flu prevention measures with them to help reduce the spread of infection.

You can get your free NHS flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy, while most pharmacies in the UK also offer private jabs.

*Free NHS jabs are available only to those who fall within the current risk categories.

 

References

  1. NHS Choices. The Flu Vaccine. July 2016. Available online:
    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/flu-influenza-vaccine/ (accessed July 2018)
  2. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Q&A on seasonal influenza. Available online: https://ecdc.europa.eu/en/seasonal-influenza/facts/questions-and-answers-seasonal-influenza (accessed July 2018)
  3. Medscape & Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preventing Flu in Older Adults. November 2017. Available online: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/887671?src=par_cdc_stm_mscpedt&faf=1 (accessed August 2018)
  4. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet, January 2018. Available online: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal) (accessed July 2018)
  5. Public Health England. National flu immunisation programme plan for 2018 to 2019. March 2018. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flu-immunisation-programme-plan (accessed July 2018)

You may be at greater risk from flu

Risks from flu in people with severe obesity

The flu causes only mild illness in most people, but can lead to hospitalisation or even death in some cases1. If you are seriously overweight and catch the flu, you may be at greater risk of developing health complications than healthy people, e.g. bronchitis or pneumonia1. Obesity may also lead to heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases3, which may worsen flu-related complications2.

 

Protecting yourself from flu

The flu viruses predominantly circulate during the winter. So you should think about how to help protect yourself as the flu season approaches, as this is when you are most vulnerable.

Vaccination is the most effective way to avoid developing the flu4, and if you are seriously overweight (BMI of 40 or above)1, you are eligible for a free flu vaccination on the NHS. You can calculate your BMI using an online BMI calculator that takes your weight, size, and other factors into account3.

Get vaccinated as soon as possible, ideally before the end of November, to ensure you’re protected right through the winter5.

 

References

  1. NHS Choices. Who should have the flu vaccine? July 2016. Available online: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/who-should-have-flu-vaccine (accessed August 2018)
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People at High Risk of Developing Flu-Related Complications. August 2018. Available online: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm (accessed September 2018)
  3. NHS Choices. Obesity. June 2016. Available online: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/obesity (accessed August 2018)
  4. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet. January 2018. Available online:http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal) (accessed August 2018)
  5. Public Health England. National flu immunisation programme plan for 2018 to 2019. March 2018. Available online:https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flu-immunisation-programme-plan(accessed August 2018)

You may be at greater risk from flu

Risks from flu in people who have suffered transient ischaemic attacks and/or stroke

People who have had a stroke are at high risk of developing flu-related complications1. This is because your heart is working harder to combat the flu virus and is under increased stress2. If you have had a Transient Ischaemic Attack (‘mini stroke’), you may be at risk of having a full stroke in the future1.

So if you have ischaemia, or you care for someone who has, it is important to protect them from the risk of contracting flu.

 

Protecting yourself from flu

The flu viruses predominantly circulate during the winter. So you should think about how to help protect yourself as the flu season approaches, as this is when you are most vulnerable.

Vaccination is the most effective way to avoid developing the flu3, and if you have heart disease or ischemia, or you have had a TIA, you are eligible for a free flu vaccination on the NHS.

Get vaccinated as soon as possible, ideally before the end of November, to ensure you’re protected right through the winter4.

Getting a flu vaccination doesn’t just help protect you, it can also help to prevent you spreading the flu to your spouse, children and grandchildren. If you have a carer or home help, it is worth asking them to get vaccinated too, as this will also reduce your risk of infection.

 

Other ways to avoid infection

You can also take additional steps, such as avoiding public transport and crowds. However, if you’re unable to avoid public transport (for example, if you need to get to hospital for treatment or an appointment), wash your hands after every trip, use the antiseptic hand gel dispensers in the hospital regularly, cover your nose and mouth if you sneeze or cough, and dispose of any used tissues as quickly as possible.

 

You can get your free NHS flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy, while most pharmacies in the UK also offer private jabs.

*Free NHS jabs are available only to those who fall within the current risk categories.

 

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu and Heart Disease & Stroke. August 2016. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/heartdisease/ (accessed September 2018)
  2. British Heart Foundation. Cold weather and your heart. Available online: https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/living-with-a-heart-condition/weather-and-your-heart/cold-weather (accessed July 2018)
  3. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet, January 2018. Available online: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal) (accessed July 2018)
  4. Public Health England. National flu immunisation programme plan for 2018 to 2019. March 2018. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flu-immunisation-programme-plan (accessed July 2018)

Are you possibly at greater risk from the effects of flu?

Please answer the following questions:

Are you over 65?

Are you pregnant?

Do you have one or more of the following health condition(s)?:

Chronic respiratory disease

Chronic heart disease

Chronic kidney disease

Chronic liver disease

Chronic neurological disease

Diabetes

Severe obesity

Asplenia and/or dysfunction of the spleen (absence or abnormal function of spleen)

Transient ischaemic attacks and/or stroke

Immunosuppression (reduced function of immune system)

None of the above

Are you a carer?

Do you work in health or social care?

You are an adult acting on behalf of a child eligible for receiving a flu vaccine. (Check eligibility with your GP)

Adverse Event Reporting

I AM A HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL OR ASSOCIATED EMPLOYEE I AM NOT A HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL OR ASSOCIATED EMPLOYEE