Preventing flu 

There are three main ways of preventing flu: good hygiene, such as handwashing and cleaning, flu vaccination and antiviral medicines.

Good hygiene

Preventing the spread of germs is the most effective way of slowing the spread of flu. Always:

  • make sure you wash your hands regularly with soap and water
  • clean surfaces such as your keyboard, telephone and door handles regularly to get rid of germs
  • use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
  • put used tissues in a bin as soon as possible

Read more information about home hygiene.

The flu jab

flu vaccine is available free on the NHS for:

  • anyone over the age of 65 
  • pregnant women
  • children and adults with an underlying health condition (particularly long-term heart or respiratory disease)
  • children and adults with weakened immune systems

It is given as an annual injection to:

  • adults over the age of 18 at risk of flu (including everyone over 65)
  • children aged six months to two years at risk of flu

The flu vaccine is also given as an annual nasal spray to:

  • children aged two to 18 years at risk of flu
  • healthy children aged two, three and four years old

It is available from October each year. If you think you need it, talk to your doctor or nurse. Find your local GP surgery here.

Read more information about:

Antiviral medication

It is recommended that you take the antiviral medicines Relenza or Tamiflu to prevent flu if all of the following apply:

  • there is a lot of flu around
  • you have a medical condition that puts you at risk of flu, such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease or a neurological disease 
  • you are aged 65 or over 
  • you have been in contact with someone with a flu-like illness and can start antiviral treatment within 48 hours
  • you have not been effectively protected by vaccination

You are not effectively protected by vaccination if you:

  • have not been vaccinated since last winter
  • cannot be vaccinated or have been vaccinated but it hasn't taken effect yet
  • have been vaccinated for a different form of flu virus

If there is an outbreak of flu in a residential or nursing home – where the flu virus can often spread very quickly – antiviral medication may be offered to people if they have been in contact with someone with confirmed flu.

For more information, read the NICE guidelines on antivirals to prevent influenza.

The Tokkels: flu jabs

Flu is a highly infectious illness caused by the flu virus. It spreads rapidly through small droplets coughed or sneezed into the air by an infected person. Some people are at greater risk of developing serious complications of flu, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. The flu vaccination is offered to people in at-risk groups.

Media last reviewed: 14/11/2013

Next review due: 14/11/2015

Do I need the flu jab every year?

Yes. If you're in a high-risk group, you should have the seasonal flu vaccination every year so that you stay protected.

The viruses that cause flu change every year, so this winter's flu will be different from last winter's.

Read more about why the flu jab is given every year.

Find out if you should have the annual flu jab.

The flu jab

Flu is highly infectious – but the annual flu jab can help to prevent it

Flu Heroes

Find out about the new nasal spray flu vaccine for young children

Page last reviewed: 16/05/2013

Next review due: 16/05/2015