Flu

Flu is a serious condition that kills thousands and hospitalises thousands more in England each year.

The flu vaccination is the best protection for you and those around you which is why it is offered for free on the NHS for those most at risk.

How to get a flu vaccine

Flu vaccines are safe and effective. They’re offered every year on the NHS to help protect people at risk of flu and its complications.

The best time to have a flu vaccine is in the autumn before flu starts spreading but you can get vaccinated later too.

Find out more about the adult flu vaccine, eligibility and book your flu vaccination.

Children are also eligible for the children’s nasal spray flu vaccine, which is safe and effective. It’s offered every year to children to help protect them against flu. Find out more about the children’s flu vaccine.

Check if you have flu

Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include:

  • a sudden high temperature
  • an aching body
  • feeling tired or exhausted
  • a dry cough
  • a sore throat
  • a headache
  • difficulty sleeping
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhoea or tummy pain
  • feeling sick and being sick

The symptoms are similar for children, but they can also get pain in their ear and appear less active.

Cold and flu symptoms are similar, but flu tends to be more severe.

How to treat flu yourself

If you have flu, there are some things you can do to help get better more quickly.

Do

  • Rest and Sleep
  • Keep warm
  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower your temperature and treat aches and pains
  • drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration (your pee should be light yellow or clear

A pharmacist can help with flu

A pharmacist can give treatment advice and recommend flu remedies.

Do not take paracetamol and flu remedies that contain paracetamol at the same time as it’s easy to take more than the recommended dose.

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Antibiotics

GPs do not recommend antibiotics for flu because they will not relieve your symptoms or speed up your recovery.

Non-urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:

You or your child have symptoms of flu and:

  • you’re worried about your baby’s or child’s symptoms
  • you’re 65 or over
  • you’re pregnant
  • you have a long-term medical condition – for example, diabetes or a condition that affects your heart, lungs, kidneys, brain or nerves
  • you have a weakened immune system – for example, because of chemotherapy or HIV
  • you’re symptoms do not improve after 7 days

You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.

Non-urgent advice: Call 999 or go to A&E if you:

  • get sudden chest pain
  • have difficulty breathing
  • start coughing up a lot of blood

Page last reviewed: 27 January, 2023

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