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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.

This information is about flu vaccination in the UK. People with epilepsy may be at risk of complications from flu if they are in one of the high risk groups.

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
  • 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.

What is the flu vaccine?

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 or 4 types of flu virus.

The 2016/2017 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, 2 or 3 at school, and children and young people with certain medical conditions

The flu vaccine doesn’t work well for babies under 6 months old, so they should not have it, even if they have one of the conditions below. That’s why it’s so important that pregnant women have the vaccine. They will pass on some immunity to their baby to protect them in the early months of their life.

Is the flu jab safe for people with epilepsy?

We are not aware of any evidence to suggest the flu jab will affect your epilepsy or epilepsy medicines.

Should I have the flu jab?

You should have the flu jab if you:

  • Are aged 2, 3 or 4 years old
    Are in school years 1, 2 or 3
  • 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
  • Care for an elderly or disabled person
  • Are a health or social care worker

You should also have the flu jab 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

Am I considered at high risk because of my epilepsy?

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 jab 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 jab.

If I’m not high risk, how can I get the flu jab?

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

This information is taken from the NHS Choices website: nhs.uk

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


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

  • Updated August 2016
    To be reviewed August 2017

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