Flu (Influenza)

There is more flu around in Scotland this winter. The flu vaccine is the best available protection against this unpredictable virus. The vaccine offers the best defence against the most common types of flu circulating at the moment.


Who should get the flu vaccine?

Any strain of flu, can be dangerous for people who are more vulnerable to it. That’s why anyone with a health condition, people aged 65 or over, and women who are pregnant, are urged to get the free flu vaccine as soon as possible if they have not already done so. 

Contact your GP practice today to make an appointment for your free flu vaccine.

For information on the childhood flu immunisation programme for 2017, visit our child flu pages. 


What is flu?

Flu is much more than a bad cold. It’s a virus which can make even healthy people feel very unwell. In the most serious cases, flu can bring on pneumonia, or other serious infections which can, in extreme cases, result in death. 

Flu is often spread through the air by coughs and sneezes. It can also be caught by coming into contact with contaminated surfaces.


When is flu season?

In Scotland, flu season usually begins as the weather gets colder, so get the vaccine as soon as you can. The vaccine is available from October through to the end of March. 


What to do if I have flu?

Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include symptoms such as fever (temperature above 38C), aches, tiredness or exhaustion, headache. For advice about what to do or a full list of the symptoms of flu please visit NHS inform or contact the NHS inform helpline 0800 22 44 88 (Monday to Friday 8am–10pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am–5pm).


How does the flu vaccine work?

The vaccine takes around 10 days to work and should protect you from flu for around a year. You have to get immunised every year because the virus changes constantly and your immunity reduces over time. Last year’s vaccine won’t necessarily protect you from this year’s flu viruses. The flu vaccine can’t give you flu, but it can stop you catching it. 


I have an egg allergy, can I have the vaccine?

There is no egg free vaccine available this year as the manufacturers have stopped producing it, however, arrangements are in place for people with an egg allergy so they can receive the flu vaccine. If you are affected, please speak to your GP practice for advice.


Is the vaccine effective?

Over the last ten years, the flu vaccine has generally been a good match for the circulating strains of flu so you can be confident being vaccinated is the best way to help protect yourself against flu, a virus which can cause serious illness. Even when it is not as well matched, if you do develop flu and you have had the vaccine, symptoms may be less severe and you may be less likely to develop complications requiring you to see your GP or being admitted to hospital.


Is the vaccine safe?

As with all medicines used in Scotland, the influenza vaccines undergo rigorous safety testing by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), and no concerns were reported. The MHRA continues to monitor the safety of these vaccines.


What if I am not in one of the eligible groups?

If you are 16 years old or over and not in one of the eligible groups for the free flu immunisation, you can get the vaccine in many high street pharmacies for a small fee.

Last reviewed on 07 February 2018

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