Influenza (flu)

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Get your flu shot today

Influenza (also known as 'flu') is a highly contagious illness caused by the influenza virus.

Both flu and COVID-19 are circulating in the community. It is important to protect yourself and your community by getting vaccinated.

Speak to your General Practitioner (GP), pharmacist or Aboriginal Medical Service about getting your flu vaccine as soon as possible.

Pharmacists can now administer flu vaccines to children aged 5 and over. Parents with children aged under 5 should see their GP.

Make an appointment with your GP or pharmacist to get vaccinated.

Some people are eligible for a free flu vaccine because they are more vulnerable to flu:

  • children from 6 months to under 5 years of age
  • people with serious health conditions (including severe asthma, diabetes, cancer, immune disorders, obesity, kidney, heart, lung or liver disease)
  • pregnant women
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from 6 months of age
  • people who are 65 years of age and over.

Please note: some providers may charge an administration or consultation fee. Ask your GP or pharmacist if this applies to you.

If you are not eligible for a free flu vaccine, your GP or pharmacist will charge you a small fee. The fee may vary between providers.

Why do I need a flu shot?

Influenza, or flu, is a respiratory illness that is more serious than the common cold. Each year, people in NSW die from flu-related illness. 

You can catch flu at any time of the year, but activity usually peaks in winter. Although the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, flu and COVID-19 are caused by different viruses.

There are some simple things you can do to reduce the risk of catching or spreading flu and COVID-19 to others. Protect yourself and the community by getting both vaccines.

An annual flu shot gives the best protection

You need to get a vaccination annually because flu viruses change (mutate) year to year. Flu vaccines are updated each year to provide protection against the flu strains likely to circulate in the coming flu season.

By getting a flu shot, you are protecting yourself and your loved ones from serious illness.

General Practitioners (GPs) and pharmacies start to offer the flu vaccine around April/May each year.

For those eligible, the free flu shot can be accessed through your GP or Aboriginal Medical Service. If you are 65 years and over, you can also go to your local pharmacist. Make an appointment today to get vaccinated.

If you are not eligible to receive a free flu vaccine, you can purchase the vaccine from your GP or pharmacist for a small fee. The fee may vary between providers.

Flu and COVID-19 vaccines can be given together

The flu and COVID-19 vaccines can be given together, at the same time. Many people who are eligible for a free flu vaccine will also be eligible for an additional COVID-19 booster. Ask your doctor whether you need additional protection against COVID-19.

Symptoms of the flu

Symptoms of the flu may last for at least a week and can include:

  • fever
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • muscle aches
  • joint pains
  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • vomiting and diarrhoea (more common in children than adults).

The symptoms of COVID-19 and flu can be very similar. If you have any cold- or flu-like symptoms, you should take a test for COVID-19 straight away, even if you are up to date with your vaccinations.

This will help you get appropriate support and treatment if needed. If your test is negative, you should still stay at home until your symptoms have cleared.

Most people with the flu recover after a few days, but for some people it can lead to a severe and life-threatening illness.

If your symptoms become severe, please consult your GP or call Triple Zero (000) straight away.  

How flu is diagnosed

Doctors usually diagnose influenza based on symptoms.

Doctors can confirm the diagnosis by swabbing your nose or throat to test for the virus.

These tests are usually only needed if the illness is severe or if there is an increased risk of complications.

How flu is treated

Rest, drink plenty of fluid, and consider taking gentle pain relief for muscle aches and pains.

Do not give aspirin-containing medications to children under 16 who are ill with flu. Using aspirin increases the risk of children developing Reye Syndrome, a form of encephalitis and liver degeneration.

Specific influenza antiviral medicines can reduce the severity and the duration of influenza. However, antiviral medicines:

  • need to be taken within 48 hours of symptoms
  • need to be prescribed by a doctor
  • are usually reserved for people who are at higher risk of complications from a flu infection.
How flu is spread

Flu is spread by droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or touches surfaces, such as door handles and lift buttons.

Flu can be spread to someone by an infected person even before their symptoms begin. People  with flu are infectious from the day before their symptoms start until 5 to 7 days later. Young children and people with weakened immune systems may be infectious for longer.

Many of the COVID-safe behaviours we have been practicing for the past couple of years are also very effective at stopping the spread of the flu:

  • Stay at home if you're sick

If you are sick, stay at home and avoid close contact with other people to prevent them from also becoming sick. 

  • Sneeze into your elbow

Sneeze into your elbow instead of your hands or cover your face with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw used tissues in a rubbish bin.

  • Clean your hands

Wash your hands thoroughly and often. Wash hands for at least 20 seconds, especially after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose, or use an alcohol-based sanitising hand rub.

More information

Learn more about flu and how to protect yourself.

Help track the flu

FluTracking is an online community-based way to detect influenza epidemics. You can sign up to help track influenza in your local community, and contribute to scientific research.

Flu information - in your language

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