Influenza, commonly known as ‘the flu', is an illness caused when an influenza virus infects the respiratory tract – your nose and lungs.
Influenza infection usually has different symptoms and causes a more severe illness than the common cold. It may be a life-threatening infection in certain people.
Flu is a common trigger for asthma along with other respiratory viruses.
Australian flu outbreaks are usually seasonal, occurring from late autumn through winter and into early spring.
Influenza vaccination (the flu shot) offers a high degree of protection against the flu and its severe consequences.
There are several different influenza viruses and strains. The type usually changes from year to year, so the recommended vaccine also changes from year to year.
See your doctor for a flu shot each autumn. The vaccine is free for people with severe asthma and anyone over 65.
Influenza (the flu) is a highly contagious and for some people it’s a potentially life-threatening disease.
While cold and flu symptoms might seem similar at first, the flu can become serious. Typical flu symptoms can include:
Children’s symptoms may also include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Influenza vaccines used in Australia do not contain any live viruses so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot.
While the vaccine may not be 100% effective in all people, it remains the single most effective way to prevent influenza.
Serious reactions to the flu shot are rare. The most common side-effects are skin redness and swelling where you had the injection.
Allergic reactions are uncommon but may occur in people with a severe egg allergy. If you have an egg allergy, check with your doctor before getting a flu shot.
Anyone can contract the flu. Being fit and healthy doesn’t stop infection. The flu is highly contagious, so protecting yourself can also help protect those close to you.
The types of viruses circulating in the community usually change from year to year. You need an annual flu shot to keep your immunity up to date.
If you have a minor illness without fever, vaccination is fine, especially if you are in one of the groups at risk of serious complications. These include people with heart conditions, asthma and other chronic respiratory conditions, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, neuromuscular disorders and impaired immunity.
There is growing evidence that vaccination during pregnancy protects the mother from serious illness and then the infant during the first months of life. There is no evidence that vaccination is unsafe for mother or baby.
Did you have the flu or a cold? The vaccine doesn’t protect against colds.