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Who should have a flu jab?

Those with certain long-term conditions should have a flu jab annually. Some health conditions make people more vulnerable to becoming seriously ill if they develop flu. This is why the Department of Health advises the following groups to have a flu jab every year:1

Risk group Examples of conditions within risk groups What is the increased risk?
People with chronic lung conditions Some examples of this include asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis, emphysema, cystic fibrosis. Flu can bring on asthma attacks and will make chronic bronchitis much worse. If you get flu, a secondary infection like pneumonia can set in. If you go on to develop pneumonia, the risk of developing further complications could be higher.
People with chronic heart, kidney or liver disease
Examples include chronic heart failure, high blood pressure with heart complications, chronic kidney failure, hepatitis, liver cirrhosis. People with flu may experience changes or abnormalities in the rhythm of their heartbeat, which indicates there is a problem with the heart muscles. Studies have suggested that people with heart disease are less likely to have a heart attack if they have a flu jab, compared to those that develop flu.
You may be more likely to develop complications or worsening of your liver disease if you catch flu.
Chronic kidney disease is made worse by flu.
People with diabetes This includes both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
The death rate among people with diabetes can increase by between 5% and 15% when there is a flu outbreak.
People with a low immune system This includes people whose immune system has been affected by illness (such as HIV), by the absence of a spleen or a spleen that does not work correctly, or by treatment such as chemotherapy or steroid treatment.
If you are receiving chemotherapy or steroid treatment, have no spleen, or if you have HIV/AIDS, your immune system is already considerably weakened. Flu will further reduce your capacity to fight infection.
People with certain neurological conditions Examples include stroke and transient ischaemic attack (TIA). There is evidence that receiving the annual flu jab reduces the risk of a stroke in patients with a history of stroke or transient ischaemic attack (also known as a mini-stroke).

Other age groups or conditions recommended to have a flu jab:1,2

Who Examples What is the risk?
Pregnant women Women at any stage of their pregnancy.
There is good evidence that pregnant women are at increased risk from complications if they get flu. There is evidence that flu during pregnancy may be associated with premature birth and smaller birth size and weight. The flu jab may reduce the likelihood of prematurity and smaller infant size at birth.
People aged 65 and over
All those who have reached 65 by 31 March. Death from flu is most common in the over 65s - you are more likely to have complications and be admitted to hospital than younger patients.

For 2017/18, the flu jab will be offered to all pre-schoolers aged 2 and 3 years, as well as children in school years from reception to year 4. If your child is eligible for a jab this year, your GP will let you know.

Remember, any child who falls into any of the clinical risk categories should have a flu jab.

Children are ‘super spreaders’ of flu (picked up or spread at school or nursery), so by cutting down the number of cases of flu in children, fewer cases will be passed onto adults who might be at greater risk from flu.

Other groups recommended to have a flu jab:1,2

Who Examples
Health and social care workers Those with direct patient contact are advised to have the flu jab to help protect people in their care at greater risk from the effects of flu.
Those in care homes (not including university halls of residence)
Flu can spread rapidly from person to person when there are many people living in close quarters.
Carers i.e. people who look after someone who wouldn’t be able to get by without their help The flu jab helps to protect those they are caring for.

If you are unsure whether you should have a flu jab, contact your GP surgery or ask your local pharmacy team for advice.

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