It may seem premature to start thinking about the long, cold winter months, but September is the perfect time to consider your personal winter health plan.

This might include committing to a healthier diet, getting more exercise and ensuring your medicine cabinet is stocked up with the basics, but the NHS always recommends organising your vaccination against influenza as a priority.

Flu is a major threat to our health from early autumn right through to spring. With more people than ever getting seriously ill with flu-related complications, enormous pressures are placed on the NHS system, taking up intensive care beds and causing long delays in A&E.

Not only does vaccination help prevent flu, it provides more protection against secondary bacterial infections such as pneumonia, which, like flu, can be fatal in older people or those with long term conditions. Avoiding illnesses like this also reduces the need for antibiotics which in turn prevents antibiotic resistance – another serious problem facing the UK population and the National Health Service.

Last winter saw record flu vaccination levels - with nearly 1.5 million more people getting protected than in 2016 - but we know we can do better in 2018! A flu jab is quick, painless and free for those who sit within an eligible group. Get it done at participating local pharmacies or through the practice nurse at your GP surgery. Children receive an easy nasal spray, meaning no nasty needles!

So who is eligible?

  • all children aged two to nine (but not ten years or older) on 31 August 2018
  • those aged six months to under 65 years in clinical risk groups (for example those suffering from long-term health conditions such as bronchitis, emphysema, diabetes or asthma)
  • pregnant women
  • those aged 65 years and over
  • those in long-stay residential care homes
  • carers

N.B. Because the children’s vaccine has a shorter shelf life, availability will be limited later in the season so the sooner they have it done, the better. Most schools offer an immunisation programme – look out for the letter requesting parental permission.