Understanding Flu

Understanding flu symptoms

  • Flu symptoms are intense and can appear suddenly;1 causing a fever, aching muscles, extreme tiredness, a stuffy nose, sore throat and a dry cough2
  • In serious cases, flu can lead to complications such as a painful ear infection, acute bronchitis and pneumonia2
  • Flu viruses are constantly changing, so vaccination is needed every year3,4
  • Flu is miserable for children and the family, with children taking up to seven days to recover,5 which can mean time off work for parents and affect childcare arrangements6

Understanding how the flu virus spreads

  • Flu is infectious and spreads easily to other people from coughs and sneezes, living on hands and surfaces for 24 hours7
  • Children are also more likely to spread flu as they stay infectious for longer8
  • A survey of more than 2,000 UK parents revealed that two thirds of children forget to wash their hands, a further 55% pick their noses and 48% don’t cover their mouths to sneeze or cough9

How to prevent the spread of flu

In addition to seeking vaccination for children, the NHS recommends that parents and carers minimise the spread of flu by:10

  • Teaching children about hygiene practices, including:
    – Using tissues to catch germs when coughing or sneezing, and throw away used tissues as quickly as possible
    – Washing hands effectively with warm water and soap
  • Cleaning household surfaces with anti-bacterial cleaners regularly

When is the best time to get vaccinated?

The best time to have the flu vaccine is in the autumn before flu starts spreading.11

While it is impossible to predict how many cases of flu there will be each year or exactly when most people will get ill, we know that flu circulates every winter and generally peaks in December and January. You can have the flu vaccine later in the winter, although receiving the vaccine earlier will help to prevent the spread of flu.11



1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seasonal Influenza, Symptoms & Diagnosis, Cold Versus Flu. December 2019. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/coldflu.html
2. Public Health England: Protecting your child against flu. Information for parents. Flu immunisation in England. July 2020. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/905421/PHE_protecting_child_against_flu_leaflet_2020.pdf
3. NHS Website. Children’s flu vaccine overview. September 2020. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/child-flu-vaccine/
4. World Health Organization. Influenza virus infections in humans. February 2014. Available at: http://www.who.int/influenza/human_animal_interface/virology_laboratories_and_vaccines/influenza_virus_infections_humans_feb14.pdf
5. Willacy H. Influenza and Flu-like Illness. September 2017. Available at: http://patient.info/health/influenza-and-flu-like-illness
6. Ambrose CS & Antonova EN, The healthcare and societal burden associated with influenza in vaccinated and unvaccinated European and Israeli children. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2014;33:569-575. doi: 10.1007/s10096-013-1986-6.
7. NHS Website. Flu. August 2019. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/flu/
8. Usonis V et al., Central European Vaccination Advisory Group (CEVAG) guidance statement on recommendations for influenza vaccination in children. BMC Infect Dis. 2010;10:168
9. AstraZeneca Data on File. REF-65291. October 2019.
10. NHS Manchester Clinical Commissioning Group. Available at: https://www.mhcc.nhs.uk/news/catch-it-bin-it-kill-it/ (Last accessed July 2020)
11. NHS Website. Flu Vaccine FAQs. July 2019. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/flu-vaccine-questions-answers/


If you or your child experience any side effects after taking an AstraZeneca medicine, including the childhood flu vaccine, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse. This includes any possible side effects not listed in the package leaflet. You can also report side effects directly via the Yellow Card Scheme at www.mhra.gov.uk/yellowcard. By reporting side effects, you can help provide more information on the safety of this medicine.

Side effects can also be reported to AstraZeneca by visiting https://aereporting.astrazeneca.com/.

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