Cold and flu viruses, as well as others, are easily passed on. Find out how easily they are passed on and see how three simple steps, Catch It, Bin It, Kill It, can help prevent them from spreading.

  • Catch it - Germs spread easily. Always carry tissues and use them to catch your cough or sneeze
  • Bin it - Germs can live for several hours on tissues. Dispose of your tissue as soon as possible.
  • Kill it - Hands can transfer germs to every surface you touch. Wash your hands with soap and water.

Flu

Seasonal flu is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It occurs every year, usually in the winter and spread rapidly through coughs and sneezes of people who are carrying the virus.

People sometimes think of flu as a bad cold but having flu is more serious. You may be so ill that you are unable to do much more than stay in bed.

Some people are more vulnerable to the effects of seasonal flu. Flu can make existing conditions worse or can increase the risk of developing more serious illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia. In the worst cases, seasonal flu can result in a stay in hospital, or even death. The best thing you can do to protect yourself against seasonal flu is to have the flu vaccination.

The following groups should get the seasonal flu vaccination every year from their GP:

  • those aged 65 years or over
  • those who live in a residential or nursing home
  • receive a carer's allowance, or you are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
  • pregnant women
  • children over the age of six months with a long-term health condition
  • 2, 3 and 4 year olds
  • all children of school years 1, 2, 3 and 4

People with long-term conditions should also get the free vaccination from their GP. This includes people:

  • with a heart problem
  • with a chest complaint or breathing difficulties, including bronchitis or emphysema, asthma that requires continuous or repeated use of inhaled or systemic steroids, cystic fibrosis
  • who have had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
  • diabetes
  • a problem with the spleen for example, sickle cell disease, or the spleen has been removed a kidney disease
  • lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (such as steroid medication or cancer treatment)
  • a neurological condition, for example multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy or learning disability
  • liver disease
  • being seriously overweight (BMI of 40 or above)

This list is not exhaustive. If you are unsure if you fall into any of these risk groups then please ask your GP.

Front-line health and social care workers are also eligible to receive the flu vaccine. It is your employer's responsibility to arrange and pay for this vaccine.

For more information on the above eligibility please see Who Should Have a Flu Vaccine? An EasyRead leaflet (PDF) is available, as is a leaflet in large print  (PDF).

If you’re otherwise fit and healthy, flu symptoms can be managed at home. Most people get better without treatment and will recover from flu within a week. However, if you are concerned about your symptoms or they are getting worse, you should contact your GP.

For tips on caring yourself at home please see NHS Choices common health questions.

Flu facts

  • Flu is not just a cold. It can be a really serious illness.
  • You're more likely to end up in hospital from the flu if you have underlying health problems
  • Getting the flu can make it impossible to look after your kids, or get to work.
  • Getting a flu jab is quick, safe and free for those most at risk - it can't give you flu and will protect you all winter.
  • You need the flu jab every year.
  • The flu jab doesn't harm your baby.

Find out all you need to know about Flu and the flu vaccine.