Any illness can have an effect on studying, exam results, sporting activities and day-to-day life, however, some can be prevented, including the dreaded flu. Influenza (The Flu) is caused by a virus. Genuine flu is much worse than fresher’s flu, a cold and the commonly named ‘man flu’. With people living in close proximity at university, flu can spread quickly.


For most people it generally lasts for 1-2 weeks, which can highly impact on a student’s degree with symptoms including excessive fatigue, weakness, severe aches and pains and high fever. For most student’s, influenza would be just a troublesome, self-limiting illness; however for those with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes or a weakened immune system it can cause serious complications with many hospitalisations and around 8,000 deaths per year in the UK being attributable to flu.

A yearly influenza vaccine can provide excellent protection against the most common strains of flu expected to be prevalent each winter. Good hygiene is also important. A free flu jab on the NHS is available for those who are at highest risk from the complications of flu including:

  • Chronic respiratory conditions (such as asthma requiring regular steroid inhalers, cystic fibrosis and COPD)
  • Kidney, Liver or heart diseases
  • Diabetes, including diet-controlled type 2 diabetes
  • A weakened immune system from either immunosuppressant medication (e.g. chemotherapy, some medications for R.A or Crohn’s disease etc) or through illnesses such as HIV
  • A serious disease of the nervous system or history of stroke
  • Main carers of an elderly or disabled person
  • Pregnant women
  • Aged 65 and over and young children

Until now in Bristol, those with chronic health conditions had to go to their GP for an annual flu jab, but now getting your flu jab has been made easier. Many pharmacies in the Bristol area (link to list below) are able to give flu vaccinations for the first time this year (providing you are registered with a Bristol GP).

If you are not eligible for a NHS vaccination, many pharmacies are providing flu jabs at a small cost of around £10, which can work out cheaper than a few packs of tissues and over-the-counter flu remedies. With many pharmacies having long opening hours with no appointment being necessary, getting your flu jab at a pharmacy can be fast and convenient – and much less hassle than getting the flu.

And pharmacists are not just useful for flu jabs or to dispense medications. They can save you unnecessary trips to your GP. Local pharmacies can provide advice and many useful and confidential health services such as the morning-after-pill, chlamydia treatment, stopping smoking as well as treatment and advice for a variety of common ailments such as stomach upsets, aches, pains and skin conditions.

For more information use the links below, and stay healthy this winter.

List of NHS Vaccinating pharmacies

Information about the flu season and complications

General flu information

Services your pharmacists can provide

How to prevent flu

By Emily Stone (MPharmS – pre-reg, trainee)