As part of our winter campaign each week we are sharing advice and tips from our staff. Dr Helen Horton, Distington GP has shared information on the flu virus.

Every year the NHS urges people who are eligible, to make sure they have the flu jab, and every year we know it saves lives.

Flu isn’t a heavy cold, it is an extremely contagious respiratory illness that can be unpredictable, causing mild illness in most people, but for some people it can develop into potentially serious life threatening complications.

So why are GPs so serious about the flu jab?

Well, we know it can protect the most vulnerable, that’s why we urge anyone in a high risk group to make sure they have it – the over 65s, those with a long term condition such as lung disease or heart disease, as well as carers and pregnant women.

But we also urge parents to make sure their children have it too. Kids can get very poorly with the flu as their immune systems are developing, but they are also very good at spreading the virus because they have lots of contact with people - much of it physical!

Primary school children will be offered the vaccine at school, but children aged two and three will be offered it at their GP  Practice. The good news for children is that it is delivered as a nasal spray – no needles!

Many GP Practices organise drop-in sessions, which you’ll be invited to if you are in a high risk group.

Remember the sooner you have it the more quickly you will be protected.

The vaccine isn’t a guarantee you won’t get flu, but the world’s health experts spend a lot of time looking at the strains likely to hit the UK and developing what they expect to be the most effective vaccine.

Even if you had your jab over the last winter period, you will need to have one again, because flu changes every year.

I’ll be having mine this month, and I’d urge you to take up the offer if you are called by your GP Practice.