Why you need the flu vaccine

Lesley Dobson / 20 September 2016

With winter snapping at our heels it’s time to think about protecting yourself from one of the biggest cold-weather health risks – flu.

Age and poor health put you at greater risk of dying because of flu. If you are 65 years old and over, or have long-term health problems, you should have the flu jab. Ask your GP whether you should have a flu jab through the NHS if you have any of these health problems:

If any of these apply to you, it means that you’re especially vulnerable to the flu virus. If you fit into any of these categories it’s important that you are vaccinated against flu every year. 

What is flu?

Flu – the name we often use for influenza, is a viral infection of the respiratory tract – your nose, mouth, throat, and lungs.

The symptoms include:

  • headaches
  • sneezing
  • a dry cough
  • sore throat
  • joint and muscle aches and pains
  • a high temperature
  • feeling sick
  • sweating

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One of the main problems with flu is that it is easy to catch, and to pass on, even if you don’t have any symptoms.

You can pass flu on simply by sneezing or coughing. If you’re infected, the droplets that you expel can easily infect other people.

Someone else could catch the flu just by touching a droplet from a cough or sneeze.

This is why it’s important to have the flu vaccination. It can help prevent you from catching flu, and  help stop you passing it on to others.

How to avoid catching a cold

How does the flu vaccine work?

There are three different types of flu virus, known as A, B, and C.

 A and B are responsible for most cases of flu in the UK.

Type A tends to be the most serious because it can transform into a strain that people don’t have resistance to.

Type B is usually less serious, and tends to affect young children rather than adults.

Type C is the mildest virus out of the three, and the symptoms are similar to having a cold.

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A new flu vaccine is created every year, so that it can target the flu strains that are those most likely to affect us over the next twelve months.

The flu vaccine for 2016/17, has been created to give protection against the flu strains that the World Health Organisation (WHO), in collaboration with scientists around the world, feels are likely to be the most widespread this winter.

Having the flu vaccination doesn’t guarantee that you won’t catch the flu, but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bother having it.

The flu jab can give you protection against a virus that can make you seriously ill. People die because of flu complications every year.

Having the flu jab each year means that you are less likely to have the flu.

When and where to have your flu jab

If you are over 65, and/or have a condition that could put you at greater risk of catching flu, contact your GP surgery from October to early November, and ask about having a flu vaccination.

Some community pharmacies also offer the flu jab to adults at extra risk from flu, so it’s worth asking if your local community pharmacy does.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.