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Influenza (usually simply called flu) is a common viral infection which is spread by coughs and sneezes. You can catch flu at any time of year but it's more common in the winter months.
The main symptoms of flu are a sudden high temperature, headache, aches and pains, tiredness and a sore throat. You may also cough or sneeze. The symptoms can come on very quickly.
Although it's painful and tiring, flu is usually a fairly mild condition that goes away by itself in around a week. However in older people or those who have certain medical conditions, flu can lead to serious complications and may require medical treatment.
The flu vaccine is given free on the NHS to people who:
- are 50 or over (including those who'll be 50 by 31 March 2022)
- have certain health conditions
- are in long-stay residential care
- receive a carer's allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get sick
- live with someone who is more likely to get infections (such as someone who has HIV, has had a transplant or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)
- frontline health or social care workers
- are pregnant
and the eligibility includes children
Flu vaccination is important because:
- if you're at higher risk from coronavirus, you're also more at risk of problems from flu
- if you get flu and coronavirus at the same time, research shows you're more likely to be seriously ill
- it'll help to reduce pressure on the NHS and social care staff who may be dealing with coronavirus
If you've had COVID-19, it's safe to have the flu vaccine. It'll be effective at helping to prevent flu.
If you an not eligible to receive the vaccination on the NHS, it would be available from your local pharmacy for around £10.
Other information and advice
Flusurvey is a website run by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. During the peak flu season in winter, users can register and then enter information about cold or flu symptoms, which is used to create a map of the flu outbreak. It also has useful information about flu prevention and vaccines.