What the NHS says about getting the flu jab if you have a cold - and who is eligible

Wednesday, 30th September 2020, 1:41 pm
Updated Friday, 2nd October 2020, 2:07 pm
If you are ill with a high temperature or fever you should wait to get the flu jab (Photo: Shutterstock)

Thousands of people are being urged to get the flu vaccination this winter due to fears of a co-infection with coronavirus.

Health officials have warned that the viruses could be circulating at the same time, which could see people become very ill should they be infected by both together.

Cold and flu bugs become much more common in winter, so the flu vaccination programme has been expanded across the UK this year to allow more people to be eligible.

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But can you have a flu jab if you already have cold symptoms? Here’s everything you need to know.

What are the symptoms of flu?

Flu symptoms typically come on very quickly and are similar to that of a cold. However, if you have the flu, these symptoms tend to be more severe.

According to the NHS, common symptoms include:

A sudden fever – a temperature of 38C or aboveAn aching bodyFeeling tired or exhaustedA dry coughA sore throatA headacheDifficulty sleepingLoss of appetiteDiarrhoea or tummy painFeeling sick and being sick

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

If I have cold symptoms, can I have the flu jab?

The NHS advises that if you are ill with a high temperature or fever, you should wait until you are better before getting the flu vaccine.

However, cold symptoms, such as a runny nose, should not prevent you from receiving the jab.

Who is eligible for the flu vaccine?

The full list of people who are currently eligible for the free NHS flu programme includes people who:

are 65 and over (including those who'll be 65 by 31 March 2021)have certain health conditionsare pregnantare in a long-stay residential carereceive a carer's allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get sicklive with someone who's at high risk from coronavirus (on the NHS shielded patient list)are frontline health or social care workers

This year, the vaccination programme will also be extended to include the following groups:

People who were required to shield from coronavirus and anyone they live withChildren aged 11 (all children in year 7 in secondary school who are aged 11 those aged 11 on 31 August 2020)People aged between 50 and 64, or 55 to 64 in Scotland

GP surgeries will focus on the highest risk groups first, ahead of those who are aged over 50 and in the fit and healthy range, who will be vaccinated later in the year.

The NHS will get in contact with all those who are eligible, and you can arrange an appointment.

In Scotland, the flu vaccine is being administered differently this year and may not be at your GP surgery as normal. Depending on where you live, you may be able to get your vaccine at:

healthcare settings, such as GP practices, hospitals or community pharmaciescommunity venues, such as town halls, village halls, sports halls and secondary schoolsdrive-through or walk-through clinics

For more information, visit nhsinform.scot.

How effective is the vaccine?

The flu vaccine helps to protect against the main types of flu viruses, although there is still a possibility that you might catch the virus. However, if you do get the flu after the vaccination, it is likely to be milder and not last as long.

Receiving the flu vaccine will also stop you from spreading the virus to other people who may be at higher risk of serious problems if they do catch it.

It can take between 10 and 14 days for the vaccine to work.

A version of this article originally appeared on our sister site, The Scotsman.