Healthcare Professionals

This section is intended for healthcare professionals and associated healthcare employees in the UK only – this includes GPs, nurses, practice managers, GP practice administration support, pharmacists and pharmacy counter assistants.

If you are not a healthcare professional or healthcare employee, you should not enter this section – information regarding flu can be found on the main website.

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

Flu vaccinations are now available at your local pharmacy

Private flu vaccinations cost around £10. If you are in an at-risk group, you are eligible for a free flu vaccination on the NHS which you can also get at your local pharmacy.

You may be at greater risk from flu

Flu Risks With 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 be hospitalised as a result of having the flu, or of developing a more serious infection such as pneumonia or bronchitis3.

These complications can occur at any time during the first, second or third trimester, but are most likely to happen after week 27 until you give birth – and up to two weeks after you give birth4.

 

Risks for your baby

If you catch or develop flu while you’re pregnant, there may be an increased risk of miscarriage, premature delivery and/or a lower birth weight4.

 

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 flu5, 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 up to 6 months after you give birth6,7.

Get vaccinated early – from October to early November – to ensure you’re protected right through the winter

 

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 vaccines 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 year8.

A review of studies on safety of Influenza vaccines in pregnancy concluded that inactivated influenza vaccine can be administered during any trimester of pregnancy and no study to date has demonstrated an increased risk of either material complications or adverse fetal outcomes associated with inactivated influenza vaccine8

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 flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy. Most pharmacies in the UK now offer both the NHS free flu jab as well as a private jab. This might be a more convenient option for you. Enter your postcode in the search box above to find your nearest local flu clinic.

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

 

References

1. Public Health England. National flu immunisation programme plan for 2017 to 2018. March 2017. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flu-immunisation-programme-plan (accessed July 2017)

2. Yudin MH. Risk management of seasonal influenza during pregnancy: current perspectives. Intl J Womens Health. 2014;6:681-89. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4122531/ (accessed July 2017)

3. NHS. The flu jab in pregnancy. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/flu-jab-vaccine-pregnant.aspx (accessed July 2017)

4. NHS. Why are pregnant women at higher risk of flu complications? http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/3096.aspx?CategoryID=5 (accessed July 2017)

5. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet No. 211, November 2016. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs211/en/index.html (accessed July 2017)

6. Dabrera G, Zho H, Andrews N et al. Effectiveness of seasonal influenza vaccination during pregnancy in preventing influenza infection in infants, England, 2013.14, Euro Surveill. 2014 Nov 13; 19 (45):20959. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25411687 (accessed July 2017)

7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pregnant Women & Influenza (Flu). http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/pregnant.htm (accessed July 2017)

8. Public Health England. The Geen Book. Chapter 19. Influenza. August 2015. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data
/file/456568/2904394_Green_Book_Chapter_19_v10_0.pdf 
(accessed July 2017)

 

 

You may be at greater risk from flu

Flu Risks 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:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Asthma
  • Emphysema
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Interstitial lung fibrosis
  • Pneumoconiosis
  • Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD)

 

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 complications5. Get vaccinated early – from October to early November – to ensure you’re protected right through the winter.

A small study in patients with COPD suggests that flu vaccination may reduce both outpatient visits and hospitalisation caused by acute respiratory infection6.

 

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 flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy. Most pharmacies in the UK now offer both the NHS free flu jab as well as a private jab. This might be a more convenient option for you. Enter your postcode in the search box above to find your nearest local flu clinic.

*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
http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm (accessed July 2017)

2. Department of Health. An Outcomes Strategy for COPD and Asthma: NHS Companion Document.
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/216531/dh_134001.pdf (accessed July 2017)

3. NHS UK – Who should have the flu jab. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/pages/who-should-have-flu-vaccine.aspx (accessed July 2017)

4. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet No. 211, November 2016. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs211/en/index.html (accessed July 2017)

5. Public Health England. National flu immunisation programme plan for 2017 to 2018. March 2017. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flu-immunisation-programme-plan (accessed July 2017)

6. Menon B et al. Comparison of outpatient visits and hospitalisations in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, before and after influenza vaccination. International Journal of Clinical Practice. 2008;62:593-98.

 

You may be at greater risk from flu

Flu Risks With Chronic Heart Disease

If you have chronic heart disease, you have an increased risk of developing complications from flu, such as a heart attack or stroke1. This is because your heart has to work harder to combat the flu virus and is therefore, under increased stress2,3.

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 last 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 early – from October to early November – to ensure you’re protected right through the winter

 

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 flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy. Most pharmacies in the UK now offer both the NHS free flu jab as well as a private jab. This might be a more convenient option for you. Enter your postcode in the search box above to find your nearest local flu clinic.

*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. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/heartdisease/ (accessed July 2017)

2. British Heart Foundation. Flu. https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/living-with-a-heart-condition/weather-and-your-heart/seasonal-influenza (accessed July 2017)

3. British Heart Foundation. Wise up to winter. https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/living-with-a-heart-condition/weather-and-your-heart/cold-weather (accessed July 2017)

4. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet No. 211, November 2016.
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs211/en/index.html (accessed July 2017)

You may be at greater risk from flu

Flu Risk 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 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 early – from October to early November – to ensure you’re protected right through the winter

 

You can get your free flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy. Most pharmacies in the UK now offer both the NHS free flu jab as well as a private jab. This might be a more convenient option for you. Enter your postcode in the search box above to find your nearest local flu clinic.

*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. http://psnc.org.uk/avon-lpc/wp-content/uploads/sites/23/2015/07/Chronic-Kidney-Disease-and-Flu-Vaccine-Importance.pdf (accessed July 2017)

2. Kidney Research UK. Kidney patients are at higher risk – don’t forget your flu jab! October 2016. https://www.kidneyresearchuk.org/news/kidney-patients-at-higher-risk–dont-forget-your-flu-jab (accessed July 2017)

3. NHS. Pharmacy remedies and kidney disease. March 2015. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Kidneyhealth/Pages/Choosingapharmacyremedy.aspx (accessed July 2017)

4. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet N0. 211, November 2016. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs211/en/ (accessed July 2017)

5. California Pacific Medical Center. Vaccinations Before and After Kidney Transplantation. http://www.cpmc.org/advanced/kidney/news/newsletter/042012-transplant-vaccinations.html (accessed July 2017)

You may be at greater risk from flu

Flu Risks 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 – as 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 serious, such as bronchitis or pneumonia1.

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 early – from October to early November – to ensure you’re protected right through the winter.  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 flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy. Most pharmacies in the UK now offer both the NHS free flu jab as well as a private jab. This might be a more convenient option for you. Enter your postcode in the search box above to find your nearest local flu clinic.

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

 

References

1. British liver trust. Get the flu jab. https://www.britishlivertrust.org.uk/our-work/campaigns/get-the-jab/ (accessed July 2017)

2. You, Liver Disease and the Flu. https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/2448.pdf(accessed August 2016) (accessed July 2017)

3. Flu Vaccinations and Chronic Liver Disease. http://psnc.org.uk/avon-lpc/wp-content/uploads/sites/23/2015/07/Liver-Disease-and-Flu-Vaccine-Importance.pdf (accessed July 2017)

You may be at greater risk from flu

Flu Risks And 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. Get vaccinated early – from October to early November – to ensure you’re protected right through the winter.

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 flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy. Most pharmacies in the UK now offer both the NHS free flu jab as well as a private jab. This might be a more convenient option for you. Enter your postcode in the search box above to find your nearest local flu clinic.

*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 2016. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm (accessed July 2017)

2. Mangera Z et al. Practical approach to management of respiratory complications in neurological disorders. Int J Gen Med. 2012;5:255–63. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3325013/ (accessed July 2017)

3. Flu Vaccinations and Chronic Neurological Disease. http://www.southdevonandtorbayccg.nhs.uk/your-health/Documents/Neurological%20Disease%20and%20Flu%20Vaccine%20Importance.pdf (accessed July 2017)

4. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet No. 211, November 2016. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs211/en/index.html (accessed July 2017)

 

You may be at greater risk from flu

Flu Risks and 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 you are at greater risk of catching flu, as having diabetes makes it harder for your body to fight off the virus1. 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 early – from October to early November – to ensure you’re protected right through the winter.

 

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?

Your blood sugar levels may fluctuate as your body produces antibodies to fight flu1. You may find you have higher glucose levels than normal1, 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 flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy. Most pharmacies in the UK now offer both the NHS free flu jab as well as a private jab. This might be a more convenient option for you. Enter your postcode in the search box above to find your nearest local flu clinic.

*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 2017)

2. Public Health England. The Geen Book. Chapter 19. Influenza. August 2015. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file
/456568/2904394_Green_Book_Chapter_19_v10_0.pdf
(accessed July 2017)

3. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet No. 211. November 2016.
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs211/en/ (accessed July 2017)

 

 

You may be at greater risk from flu

Flu Risks With Asplenia And Dysfunction Of The Spleen

Asplenia refers to someone who has had his or her spleen removed, or who has a spleen that doesn’t function well. 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 and it is potentially fatal as it can quickly lead to multiple organ failure and/or blood poisoning3.

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 early – from October to early November – to  ensure you’re protected right through the winter

 

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 flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy. Most pharmacies in the UK now offer both the NHS free flu jab as well as a private jab. This might be a more convenient option for you. Enter your postcode in the search box above to find your nearest local flu clinic.

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

 

References

1. NHS. Spleen problems and spleen removal. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/spleen-disorders-splenectomy/Pages/Introduction.aspx (accessed July 2017)

2. NHS. Causes of sepsis. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Blood-poisoning/Pages/Causes.aspx (accessed July 2017)

3. The UK Sepsis Trust. What is Sepsis? http://sepsistrust.org/public/what-is-sepsis/ (accessed July 2017)

4. Patient. Preventing Infection after Splenectomy or if you do not have a Working Spleen. http://patient.info/health/preventing-infection-after-splenectomy-or-if-you-do-not-have-a-working-spleen (accessed July 2017)

5. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet No. 211, November 2016. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs211/en/index.html (accessed July 2017)

6. Public Health England. The Geen Book. Chapter 19. Influenza. August 2015. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file
/456568/2904394_Green_Book_Chapter_19_v10_0.pdf 
(accessed July 2017)

You may be at greater risk from flu

Flu Risks And 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, which suppress the entire immune system

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

However it is caused, having a weak immune system puts you at a greater risk of catching or developing infections and this includes flu1. It also puts you at a greater risk of developing complications from flu, such as secondary lung infections or pneumonia1.

 

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 flu2, and if you have immunosuppression, for whatever reason, you are eligible for a free flu vaccination on the NHS. Get vaccinated early – from October to early November – to ensure you’re protected right through the winter.

 

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 flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy. Most pharmacies in the UK now offer both the NHS free flu jab as well as a private jab. This might be a more convenient option for you. Enter your postcode in the search box above to find your nearest local flu clinic.

*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.World Health Organisation. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet No. 211, November 2016. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs211/en/index.html (accessed July 2017)

 

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 at a local pharmacy – use the clinic finder below to locate a pharmacy near you.

Please note that other pharmacies or healthcare providers in your local area may be able to offer flu vaccinations.

You may be at greater risk from flu

Flu Risks 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 bronchitis or 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.

 

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 flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy. Most pharmacies in the UK now offer both the NHS free flu jab as well as a private jab. This might be a more convenient option for you. Enter your postcode in the search box above to find your nearest local flu clinic.

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

 

References

1. NHS. Flu and the flu vaccine. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/winterhealth/Pages/Fluandthefluvaccine.aspx (accessed July 2017)

2. Public Health England. National flu immunisation programme plan for 2017 to 2018. March 2017. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flu-immunisation-programme-plan (accessed July 2017)

3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People at High Risk of Developing Flu-Related Complications, August 2016. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm (accessed July 2017)

4. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet No. 211, November 2016. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs211/en/index.html (accessed July 2017)

5. Carers UK. Flu Jabs for Carers. http://www.carersuk.org/help-and-advice/health/looking-after-your-health/flu-jabs (accessed July 2017)

 

You may be at greater risk from flu

Flu Risks If You Are A Healthcare Worker Or Social Staff

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

If you are a 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 are 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 bronchitis or pneumonia, a higher risk of hospitalisation2 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 you7,8:

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

You can get your free flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy. Most pharmacies in the UK now offer both the NHS free flu jab as well as a private jab. This might be a more convenient option for you. Enter your postcode in the search box above to find your nearest local flu clinic.

*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. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/infectioncontrol/ltc-facility-guidance.htm (accessed July 2017)

2. NHS. Flu and the flu vaccine. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/winterhealth/Pages/Fluandthefluvaccine.aspx (accessed July 2017)

3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People at High Risk of Developing Flu-Related Complications. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm (accessed July 2017)

4. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet No. 211, November 2016. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs211/en/index.html (accessed July 2017)

5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How Flu Spreads. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/spread.htm (accessed July 2017)

6. NHS. Flu Jab FAQs. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/pages/flu-vaccine-questions-answers.aspx (accessed July 2017)

7. NHS. Who should have the flu jab. July 2016. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/pages/who-should-have-flu-vaccine.aspx (accessed July 2017)

8. Public Health England, Department of Health and NHS England. Flu immunisation programme letter 2017/2018, 2017. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data
/file/600880/annual_flu__letter_2017to2018.pdf
(accessed July 2017)

 

You may be at greater risk from flu

Flu Risks If You Are A Child

Flu can be a more serious infection for young children than adults because their immune systems are not yet fully developed1. They are at greater risk of developing complications such as bronchitis, pneumonia or a middle ear infection, which may require hospital treatment2.

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 complications2 and their symptoms may also worsen. These conditions include:

 

Protecting children from flu

Vaccination is the most effective way to avoid developing the flu3, and children in certain age groups are offered a free flu vaccination on the NHS. Please check eligibility with your GP4. The flu vaccine for children is given via a nasal spray rather than an injection – which is needle-free, quick and painless.

Please note that if your child has been diagnosed with severe asthma, he or she may not be able to receive the nasal spray vaccination but should receive an injection instead4. Ask your doctor for more information.

 

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 often don’t cover their face with their hands if they cough or sneeze, they may not use tissues properly and they don’t wash their hands as often as adults5.

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)5. This is known as herd immunity.

Children in eligible age groups 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. Enter your postcode in the search box above to find your nearest local flu clinic.

 

References

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children, the Flu and the Flu Vaccine. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/children.htm (accessed July 2017)

2.Public Health England. The Geen Book. Chapter 19. Influenza. August 2015. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file
/456568/2904394_Green_Book_Chapter_19_v10_0.pdf
(accessed July 2017)

3. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet No. 211, November 2016. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs211/en/index.html (accessed July 2017)

4. Public Health England. National flu immunisation programme plan for 2017 to 2018. March 2017. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flu-immunisation-programme-plan (accessed July 2017)

5. NHS. Children’s Flu Vaccine. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/pages/child-flu-vaccine.aspx (accessed July 2017)

You may be at greater risk from flu

Flu Risks for Those 65 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 bronchitis or 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 reduce your resistance to infection2.

It is estimated that 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 early – from October to early November – to ensure you’re protected right through the winter.

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 flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy. Most pharmacies in the UK now offer both the NHS free flu jab as well as a private jab. This might be a more convenient option for you. Enter your postcode in the search box above to find your nearest local flu clinic.

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

 

References

1. Flu and the flu vaccine.
http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/winterhealth/Pages/Fluandthefluvaccine.aspx (accessed July 2017)

2. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Q&A on seasonal influenza. https://ecdc.europa.eu/en/seasonal-influenza/facts/questions-and-answers-seasonal-influenza (accessed July 2017)

3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What You Should Know and Do this Flu Season If You Are 65 Years and Older http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/65over.htm (accessed July 2017)

4. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet No. 211, November 2016.
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs211/en/index.html (accessed July 2017)

 

Are you at greater risk from the effects of flu?

Please answer the following questions:

Are you over 65?

Are you pregnant?

Do you have a health condition?

Chronic respiratory disease

Chronic heart disease

Chronic kidney disease

Chronic liver disease

Chronic neurological disease

Diabetes

Asplenia or dysfunction of the spleen

Immunosuppression

None of the above

Are you a carer?

Do you work in social health 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