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Flu and epilepsy

These pages are about vaccinations available in the UK. If you are looking for information about vaccinations in another country, please contact your local epilepsy organisation.

Flu and epilepsy

What is flu?

It’s a very infectious virus that comes on very suddenly. The most common symptoms are fever, chills, headaches, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, and extreme tiredness. For most people, it’s not serious, and they get better within a week. But some people who get flu go on to have more serious conditions, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. In rare cases, people die from the complications of flu.

Vaccine for flu

Each year the Department of Health makes a vaccine available to offer to people at risk of serious complications of flu. Most flu vaccines protect against 3 types of flu virus.

The 2015/2016 vaccine will be available in 2 forms:

  • An injection for most adults and babies over the age of 6 months but under the age of 2 who have certain medical conditions
  • A nasal spray for children who are aged 2, 3 and 4 years old, or are in years 1 or 2 at school, and children and young people with certain medical conditions

Babies under 6 months old should not have the flu vaccine even if they have one of the medical conditions listed below. This is because it doesn’t work well in very young babies. That’s why it’s so important that pregnant women have the vaccination. They will pass on some immunity to their baby to protect them in the early months of their life.

Should I have the flu vaccine?

You should have the flu vaccination if you:

  • Are aged 2, 3 or 4 years old
  • Are in school years 1 and 2
  • Are aged 65 years or over
  • Are pregnant
  • Have certain medical conditions (see below)
  • Are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility
  • Are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person
  • Are a health or social care worker 

You should have the flu vaccination if you have:

  • A heart problem
  • A chest complaint or breathing problems, including bronchitis or emphysema
  • Kidney disease
  • Lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (such as steroid medicine or cancer treatment)
  • Liver disease
  • Had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
  • Diabetes
  • A brain condition, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy
  • A problem with your spleen, for example, sickle cell disease, or if you have had your spleen removed

Epilepsy and getting the flu vaccine

Epilepsy is a long-term condition but the Department of Health doesn’t believe that people with epilepsy are in a high risk group. This means that you are not automatically called to have a flu vaccine just because you have epilepsy. But, if your family doctor thinks you are at risk of becoming seriously ill if you get flu, they can offer you the flu vaccine.

Getting the vaccine if you are not in an eligible group

People who don't qualify for the free flu vaccine can still get it privately from some pharmacies and supermarkets. In this case, you will have to pay for it.

More information about flu and vaccinations can be found at NHS choices
Website: nhs.uk

Further information

If you think you might have flu, and you want to check your symptoms, help is available in the UK from your national NHS helpline.

Health and Social Care (Northern Ireland)
Website: hscni.net

NHS 111 (England)
Tel: 111
Website: nhs.uk

NHS 24 (Scotland)
Tel: 08454 242 424
Website: nhs24.com

NHS Direct Wales
Tel: 0845 4647
Website: nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk

If you would like to see this information with references, visit the Advice and Information references section of our website. If you are unable to access the internet, please contact our Epilepsy Helpline on 0808 800 5050.

Pay it forward

This resource is freely available as part of Epilepsy Action’s commitment to improving life for all those affected by epilepsy.

On average it costs £414 to produce an advice and information page – if you have valued using this resource, please text FUTURE to 70500 to donate £3 towards the cost of our future work. Terms and conditions. Thank you

We can provide references and information on the source material we use to write our epilepsy advice and information pages. Please contact our Epilepsy Helpline by email at helpline@epilepsy.org.uk.

This information has been produced under the terms of The Information Standard.

  • Updated September 2015
    To be reviewed September 2016

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