Flu (influenza) is a highly infectious and very common viral illness that is spread by coughs and sneezes. It can make even healthy people feel very unwell for a week or more.
You can catch flu all year round, but it is especially common in winter which is why it is often known as 'seasonal flu'.
Find out more about seasonal flu in our Health A-Z.
Who is at risk
Anyone aged 65 or over is more vulnerable to flu and needs extra protection.
People with underlying health conditions are also amongst the most vulnerable. Conditions and diseases which can make flu much more dangerous include:
If you have any of these conditions, even if you feel fit and healthy, flu can still seriously affect you.
How to protect against flu
The most effective way to protect against flu is to have the flu jab (vaccination) as early as possible.
If you had the flu vaccination last year, you will not necessarily be protected this year. For maximum protection, it is important to get a booster vaccination each year.
You can find out more about the flu vaccination at Immunisation Scotland
Who can have the flu vaccination
The following people are eligible for the free flu vaccination:
- People aged 65 and over
- Under 65s with health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis and other heart, lung and liver diseases
- Pregnant women
- Young carers and unpaid carers of any age
- Healthcare workers
A detailed list of eligibility crtieria can be found in the Scottish Government - Seasonal influenza vaccination programme 2016/17 - PDF (239KB)
If you are eligible, contact your GP practice or nurse to arrange your vaccination.
If you have not registered with a GP, you can find your nearest GP surgery on the NHS 24 website.
Child flu immunisation
The Immunisation Scotland website has lots of useful information on child flu immunisation.
Myths and facts about flu
There are a few misconceptions about flu that have become common knowledge over the years.
Some of these are old wives tales that have been passed down the generations while others are simply bad science.
For instance, did you know:
- Antibiotics cannot cure the flu. Antibiotics are designed to kill bacteria but flu is a virus and will not respond to these type of medicines.
- Cold weather increases your chances of catching flu. This is because the flu virus thrives in colder temperatures and so can survive longer outside of the human body.
Self-management of flu
If you feel symptomatic and think it might be flu, you can get self-management advice using the self-help guide on the NHS 24 website.
Check your symptoms using the NHS 24 self-help guide.
You can find more information about seasonal flu on the following websites: