Flu can be unpleasant, but if you are otherwise healthy it will usually clear up on
its own within a week. However, flu can be more severe in certain people, such as
- children and adults with an underlying health condition (particularly long-term heart or respiratory disease), and
- children and adults with weakened immune systems.
Anyone in these risk groups is more likely to develop potentially serious complications of flu, such as pneumonia (a lung infection), so it's recommended that they have a flu vaccine every year to protect them. The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge to people who are at risk. This is to ensure they are protected against catching flu and developing serious complications.
If you're pregnant, you're advised to have the injectable flu vaccine, regardless of the stage of pregnancy you've reached. That's because there's strong evidence to suggest pregnant women have an increased risk of developing complications if they get flu.
The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge to anyone with a serious long-term health condition, including these types of illnesses:
- chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma (which requires an inhaled or tablet steroid treatment, or has led to hospital admission in the past), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or bronchitis,
- chronic heart disease, such as heart failure,
- chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis,
- chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease or motor neurone disease,
- problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed and
- a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medication such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy.
The list of conditions isn't definitive. It's always an issue of clinical judgement. Your doctor can assess you individually to take into account the risk of flu exacerbating any underlying illness you may have.
If you live with someone who has a weakened immune system, you may also be advised to have a flu vaccine. Speak to your doctor about this.
The injected flu jab is recommended for anyone who is severely overweight with a body mass index (BMI) over 40.
If you care for someone who is elderly or disabled, speak to your doctor about having a flu jab along with the person you care for.