Just like the common cold, flu is spread by coughs and sneezes, but it is caused by different viruses and is much more serious – around 600 people die every year from complications, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
Take our quiz, answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to each question, to discover whether you need the flu jab this winter.
Q1. Those in ‘high risk’ groups will be offered the flu jab by their GP. Are you:
- aged 65 or over
- living in a residential or nursing home
- the main carer of an older or disabled person
Or do you have:
- a heart problem
- chest complaint or breathing difficulties
- a kidney disease
- lowered immunity due to disease or treatment
- a liver disease or diabetes
- a neurological condition such as multiple sclerosis
- a problem with, or removal of, your spleen e.g. sickle cell disease
These people are more susceptible to the effects of flu, so vaccination reduces the risks of complications.
Q2. Are you a healthcare worker, have young children, or work with children?
Health and social care workers can get the flu jab to help protect them, their patients, colleagues and families. Anyone working with, or who has, young children is also advised to have the jab, as young children typically get between seven and 10 colds a year; women tend to suffer more than men due to their greater exposure to children. Healthy children aged two, three and four years old will automatically be offered the flu vaccine as a nasal spray as part of the childhood vaccination programme.
Q3. Do you meet a lot of different people every day; do you work as a shop assistant or bar tender, for example?
These people have a lot of exposure to the general public, so their risk of picking up a flu virus also increases. At this time of year – as shops and pubs start getting busy in the run-up to Christmas – you’re also more likely to come into contact with more people than normal.
Q4. Would you be comfortable taking time off work?
If you’re self-employed, or the head of a company, your business could suffer if you’re laid low with flu. Those worried about losing their jobs may also want to take out ‘insurance’ against getting flu and having to take time off. The flu jab can help protect your economic health too!
Q5. Are you a student, or studying for exams?
Students are much more likely to come into contact with others in crowded areas, upping their chances of catching flu. And if you’re studying for exams, you don’t want to fall ill during exam season and miss them.
Q6. Are you trying to get pregnant?
All pregnant women should have the flu jab to protect themselves and their babies. But what if you’re planning to get pregnant over winter? Talk to your GP about having the jab – if you do become pregnant and then get flu you may need urgent medicine if you’re not vaccinated.
Q7. Are you stressed at the moment?
If you’re under a lot of stress, you may not be eating or sleeping properly – both key to a healthy immune system. Stress also triggers the release of steroids, which stop the body producing white blood cells that fight viruses.
Q8. Do you seem to catch every bug going?
If you’re the sort of person who always goes down with a cold, experts say it may be worth having the jab. Make sure you’re following our easy cold-prevention rules too.
We’re surprised you’re still here – you should be at the GP’s getting the flu jab! The best time to be vaccinated is in the autumn, from October to early November, but you can still have the jab later on. You shouldn’t have it if you’ve had a previous reaction, if you’re allergic to hen’s eggs, or you have a weakened immune system.
Lucky you – flu is something that happens to other people. Although you may not need the flu jab, keep your immune system strong to ward off other cold-weather conditions like coughs, colds or the winter vomiting bug.
Mixture of ‘yes’ and ‘no’
Still unsure if you need the jab? Make an appointment with your GP to discuss it. You can pay to have it at a pharmacy if you’re not eligible on the NHS, or your company may offer it to protect employees over winter. Maintaining your immune system is another essential weapon in your cold weather arsenal.
Get more great ways to stay healthy all winter with our seasonal wellbeing guides