Can I get a free flu vaccine if I have a lung condition?
Most people with asthma and lung conditions can get a free flu vaccine. You can get a free flu vaccine if you have:
- alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency
- asthma, if you use a steroid preventer inhaler or take steroid tablets
- bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD)
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including chronic bronchitis and emphysema
- cystic fibrosis
- interstitial lung disease, such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), sarcoidosis, hypersensitivity pneumonitis or pneumoconiosis
- pulmonary hypertension.
You can also get a free flu vaccine if you have had a lung transplant or are getting certain cancer treatments.
Speak to your GP or pharmacist if you’re not sure whether you’re eligible for a free flu vaccine.
If you cannot get a free flu vaccine
You can pay to get one from a pharmacy. Pharmacies charge different amounts, but it usually costs around £15. You may also want to encourage family and friends to have one too, so they can help protect themselves and others.
Common questions about the flu vaccine
If you’re entitled to a free flu vaccine, you can get one at your GP practice. They should send you an invite by text message, email, phone call, or letter. You can book your vaccine before you’re invited.
You can also get the flu jab at your local pharmacy if you’re over 18. You do not need an appointment to see a pharmacist and a lot of pharmacies are open in the evenings and on weekends. Find out more about pharmacies that offer the free flu jab on the NHS website.
Getting the flu vaccine is different across the UK:
Getting the flu vaccine can make a big difference to your health in winter.
The flu is not just a bad cold, it can be a very serious illness. In a recent survey, 3 in 4 people told us that the flu caused their lung condition symptoms to get worse.
If you’re living with a lung condition, you’re more at risk of becoming seriously ill from the flu or needing to go to hospital. Having the flu can increase the chance of you having a potentially life-threatening asthma attack or a flare-up of your lung condition. You’re also at risk of getting a chest infection after having the flu.
Getting your flu vaccine gives you the best protection against flu. It could also mean fewer visits to your GP or the hospital which helps you stay well and reduces the risk of the NHS coming under intense pressure during the flu season.
Getting the flu vaccine may also help to protect others. It can prevent the spread of flu to friends, family and anyone you come into contact with, including those at high risk from flu.
Getting the flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others around you from the flu.
Flu vaccines help protect against the main types of flu viruses around each year. Even if you get your flu jab, there’s still a chance you might get the flu. If you do catch the flu after getting vaccinated, it probably will not be as bad or last as long.
It’s important to get your flu jab every year.
The flu usually begins to spread from December. It’s best to get the vaccine in the autumn or early winter to protect you before the flu spreads. It’s still worth having your flu vaccine after this as the flu season lasts until March.
It can take 10-14 days for the flu vaccine to work so try to get your vaccine as soon as you can.
There are different types of flu viruses, called strains. The flu strains that make you sick change every winter. The vaccine you’re offered changes every year, to give you the best protection against the strain that is circulating.
The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. The injected flu vaccine does not contain any live viruses.
The nasal spray flu vaccine (usually offered to children) contains small amounts of weakened flu viruses, but the viruses are changed so they cannot give you flu.
The flu vaccine is safe for people with lung conditions. It will not cause a flare up of your lung condition or an asthma attack.
All flu vaccines are safe and effective. Some people get mild side effects.
After getting your vaccine, you might find you have:
- A slightly raised temperature.
- Achy muscles.
- A sore arm where the needle went in. This is more likely to happen for people aged 65 and over.
Any side effects from the flu vaccine should only last for a few days.
There are small traces of pork gelatine in the nasal spray vaccine (usually offered to children).
Speak to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about your options if this is not suitable for you or your child. You may be able to have an injected vaccine instead. Injected flu vaccines do not contain any pork or pork products.
It's very rare to have a serious allergic reaction to a flu vaccination. This happens to one in a million people.
Some flu vaccines are made using eggs. This means that if you have an egg allergy, you may be at risk of an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine injection. Ask your GP or pharmacist for a low-egg or egg-free vaccine.
If you are allergic, you would usually react within a few minutes of having your vaccine. The person who vaccinates you will be trained to deal with allergic reactions.
There are several different flu vaccines available each year. You’ll be offered the flu vaccine that’s right for you. Most children are offered the nasal spray flu vaccine and most adults are offered an injected flu vaccine.
Yes. The flu vaccine helps protect you against the main types of flu viruses. It does not protect you from colds or other respiratory viruses.
There are different types of flu viruses, called strains. The flu strains that make you sick change every winter.
Each year, the World Health Organization (WHO) works with specialists to decide which strains of flu the vaccine should protect against. This makes the vaccine as effective as possible.
Yes, it is safe for you to have the injected flu vaccine if you’re taking prednisolone. Prednisolone weakens your immune system, so you might not be able to take any vaccines that have live viruses in them. The injected flu vaccine does not contain any live viruses.
Be prepared for flu season - Val's story
Val, who has asthma, explains why she gets her free flu vaccine every year.
My name's Val, I’m 68 and I have asthma.
I was diagnosed at 26 just after my daughter was born.
I have my flu jab at my GP surgery every year mid-September.
I just ring up and ask: “has the vaccine arrived?” And, if it has, I book my appointment.
I have friends who have asthma like me and I always encourage them to have their flu jab.
A lot of people think flu is just like having a bad cold, but it can be very serious.
I think the most important thing you can do is to try and keep yourself well this winter and go and have the flu jab.
You can continue looking after yourself by not spreading it to anyone and you can then keep well and carry on as normal.
Children's flu vaccines
This year, all school-aged children (from reception to year 11) can get a free flu vaccine. This includes home-schooled children and children not in mainstream education.
The vaccine is usually given to children as a nasal spray, rather than an injection. However, the nasal spray is not usually recommended for:
- Children who take oral steroids for their asthma, like prednisolone.
- Children who have been in intensive care because of their asthma.
If your child falls into either of these groups, they should be offered an injection instead of a nasal spray.
Find out more about the flu vaccine for babies and children up to age 18.
Tell your child's GP or asthma nurse
If your child’s asthma gets worse in the three days before their vaccination, tell their GP, asthma nurse, or the person giving them their vaccination. They may suggest your child has an injection instead of the flu nasal spray. They could also get their flu vaccine when they feel better.
Watch a summary of this information
Getting your flu vaccine if you have a lung condition
Paula, a Health Care Support Worker, explains everything you need to know about getting your flu vaccine if you have a lung condition.
Every year lots of people with lung conditions catch flu and for some people, this can be bad news.
You might find that the flu causes your lung symptoms to flare up or that it triggers an asthma attack. It's important to protect yourself so you don't end up being seriously ill or needing to go to hospital.
An easy way to help protect yourself from the flu is by getting your flu vaccine and for most people with long conditions the flu vaccine is free. If you're not sure whether you're eligible for a free flu vaccine speak to your GP practice or pharmacists.
Most people get the flu vaccine without any problems however I find that some people have a few worries beforehand. Asthma + Lung UK carried out a survey and these are the most frequently asked questions from people with lung conditions about the flu vaccine.
Flu vaccines help protect you against the main types of flu viruses around each year but even if you get your flu jab there's still a chance you might get flu. If you do catch the flu after getting vaccinated it probably won't be as bad or as long. You're also less likely to pass the flu on to others. The flu vaccine does not stop people from getting other viruses, like colds or coughs.
It's important to get your flu jab every year. This is because the flu vaccine helps protect against the main types of flu viruses. Each year the type of flu virus that spreads each winter is different so the vaccine you are offered also changes every year. This gives you and others around you the best protection.
It's best to get the vaccine in autumn or early winter before the flu starts to spread. It can take 10 to 14 days for the flu vaccine to work so try to get your vaccine as soon as possible once they're available. However, flu season is long and the vaccine is available until the end of March. It's never too late to protect yourself
The main ingredient of any vaccine is a small amount of bacteria viruses or toxins that's been weakened or destroyed in a laboratory first. This means it's safe and there's no risk of healthy people catching a disease from the vaccine.
The vaccine sometimes contains other ingredients that make the vaccine safe and more effective. These can include pork gelatine and egg protein. There's no evidence that any of these ingredients cause harm when used in such small amounts.
Creating the right flu vaccine for each country each year is a global effort. There are National influenza centres in over a hundred and fourteen countries that receive and test thousands of flu virus samples from patients. All year round in February the World Health Organization makes recommendations on what flu vaccine should be made available for the upcoming winter in the northern hemisphere. This includes the UK.
It's safe to have the flu vaccine alongside other winter vaccines like the COVID-19 autumn booster vaccine and the pneumonia vaccine. In fact, you might be offered them at the same time.
People often worry about the side effects of vaccines but the flu vaccine is safe for people with lung conditions. It will not make your symptoms worse.
There are several types of injected flu vaccines. None of them contain the live virus so they cannot give you flu. The nasal spray flu vaccine which is usually given to children contains a small amount of weakened flu viruses but it does not cause flu in children.
People often get worried about feeling ill after getting their flu vaccine. Some people do have mild side effects like a sore arm a slightly raised temperature or achy muscles. If you do have any side effects they should only last for a day or so you can ask your pharmacist for advice about how to manage any side effects.
Hopefully, you'll find this video useful. If you want to know more about the flu vaccine visit Asthma + Lung UK's website or give our helpline a call.