Everyone with diabetes – including those who are pregnant – should get their free NHS flu jab to reduce their risk of getting the flu. This is because people with diabetes are more at risk of getting the flu and having diabetes will make it worse.
You can’t get the flu from the flu jab. But it takes two weeks to work so you could still get the flu during that time. That’s why it’s important to get the jab as soon as you can – find out where to book your jab.
Why you should get the flu jab when you have diabetes
Flu is serious and can make your blood sugar go all over the place. If your blood sugar isn’t within target, the effects of flu can be dragged out and increase your risk of developing serious complications like pneumonia. This puts you at risk of going into hospital. Getting a flu jab will help you avoid this.
A vaccine protects you against the most common types of flu currently around. As this changes each year, it means you need a new jab each year too.
"Flu increases the risk of needing to go into hospital for people with diabetes so we must do all we can to keep protected against flu this year. That's why the free NHS flu jab is so important."
Dan Howarth, our Head of Care and Diabetes Specialist Nurse
Flu jab and coronavirus (COVID-19)
If you have coronavirus (COVID-19), you shouldn’t have the flu jab until you’re better. We don't know whether the flu jab will offer protection against coronavirus, but it may make you less likely to have serious complications. We do know that the flu jab is the best way of protecting yourself against flu and reducing your risk of having to go to hospital.
People with diabetes have a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if they develop coronavirus. It’s important that people with diabetes stay out of hospital if they can. That’s why everyone with diabetes – including those who are pregnant – should also get their free NHS flu jab.
People with diabetes are particularly vulnerable to serious complications from flu if they get it. Flu can make your diabetes harder to manage and cause your blood sugar levels to rise.
It’s important that people with diabetes take up the offer of both the flu and coronavirus jabs. Getting both jabs will reduce your risk of becoming ill with both coronavirus and flu at the same time.
The flu jab will protect you from the most common strains of flu, but not all strains. You still can become ill with flu even if you’ve had the flu jab. However, those who have had the flu jab should experience a milder illness from flu than people who haven’t had it.
It’s perfectly safe to have both the coronavirus and flu vaccines together.
Tips for getting the flu jab
You need to be aware of the following:
- If you have an illness or infection – including Covid-19 – and you feel like you have a fever, don’t get the flu jab. Wait until you’re better or speak to a healthcare professional about when to have it.
- If you’ve had a serious reaction to a flu jab in the past, tell the nurse and they will give you a different jab – don’t just go without it.
- The jab is made using eggs, but if you’re allergic to eggs, you can get an ‘egg-free’ jab. Your healthcare professional can help you find out more about this.
Book your flu jab appointment for early autumn if possible (September onwards). Contact your GP to book your jab if they haven't already got in touch. Or if it’s quicker and easier, get one from your local pharmacy, like Tesco or Boots.
If you can't leave your home
If you are housebound, speak to your GP as community workers may be able to come out and give you the jab at home.
If you're a parent
If your child is 8 or under or you’re caring for someone with learning difficulties, they may be offered a nasal spray by their GP or healthcare team instead of a flu jab to protect them against the flu. Children over 8 will be offered the flu jab.
If you're asked to wait
There are enough flu jabs for everyone who is eligible. However, this year early demand for the flu jab has been higher than usual. This has meant that while a lot of people have been able to get their jab, some people have had to wait as some GP practices and pharmacies have used their early supplies.
If you are eligible and haven’t been able to get your jab yet, you will still be able to have it before flu season starts.
Possible side effects
After any vaccination you may have side effects. This is natural and they’ll usually go after a few days. Using over-the-counter medications, like paracetamol, and drinking plenty of sugar-free drinks will help if you get a high temperature.
You might find your blood sugar levels are higher than normal. This will usually settle. But if your blood sugar levels remain consistently high, or you experience anything other than these mild side effects, you must tell your doctor or healthcare professional.
If you get flu
If you don’t get the jab in time, you might get flu. Your doctor or nurse should tell you what to do if you’re unwell, and we have lots of information about it too. You might hear these called your sick day rules.
If you take an SGLT2 inhibitor tablet, you should stop this when you’re not well. Your blood sugars may rise when you’re not well so don’t stop taking any other diabetes treatment. And see your doctor or nurse soon, before it gets serious.
You really need to keep warm during the winter, both indoors and outdoors. If your house is too cold, turn up the heating to at least 18°C (65°F).
Keep testing your blood sugars
Being unwell can cause your blood sugars to go up and down. If you normally test your blood sugar, you may need to do it more often depending on your diabetes treatment.
Keep hydrated and eat
Living with diabetes and being unwell can be made worse if you don’t keep your fluids up. Some medications mean you need to eat regularly, so try to eat a little and often. Carbohydrate-based drinks, like milk or juices, may help you manage your blood sugars alongside any medication.
Go to your GP
If your symptoms don’t improve, you need to see your GP. Don’t waste time. Leaving things until they get worse might lead to more serious infections.
Call our Helpline
If you’re worried about flu or the flu vaccine, as well as your GP, you can also always contact our helpline team on 0345 123 2399. Our trained advisors are there to support you.