A Guide to the Annual Flu Shot


What is the flu?

The flu (influenza) is a highly contagious respiratory illness. It’s caused by an infection from an influenza virus. There are two main types of influenza viruses that cause infection in humans. These are Type A and Type B. 

Each year in Australia, around 13,5000 people are hospitalised as a result of the flu and around 3500 Australians over the age of 50 die from the flu each year. It’s the most common vaccine-preventable disease in Australia.

Influenza viruses are generally spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing. You can also get the flu by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your mouth or nose. 

Symptoms of the flu

Symptoms of the flu can include: 

● fever or chills
● dry, chesty cough
● headache
● tiredness
● aching muscles or joint pain
● sore throat and a runny or blocked nose

● loss of appetite

Others such as children aged six months to five years, people aged 65 years and older, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months and over, and pregnant women are at a higher risk of developing complications. 

What’s the difference between a cold and a flu?


Colds and flus have some similar symptoms including coughing, sneezing and a sore throat and both conditions are caused by viruses. However, when you have the flu you’re more likely to experience body aches and pains, extreme exhaustion, a fever and headaches. 

To find out more about the difference between a cold and a flu at Healthdirect Australia. 

Getting the flu shot

The flu vaccination is the best way to protect yourself against the flu. It also helps to protect those around who are unable to get the vaccination (like babies aged less than 6 months). The more people who are vaccinated in your community, the less likely the disease will spread. 

Flu season in Australia usually runs from June to September, with the most cases in August. The best time to get vaccinated is mid-April so that your body has time to develop immunity. 

The Australian Department of Health recommends that everyone who is older than six months should get the flu vaccine every year. You need to get it every year because flu viruses in the community continually change and the immunity from the vaccine doesn’t last a long time.  

The flu vaccine is free for some people through the National Immunisation Program Schedule, but you may still have to pay for the consultation with the healthcare provider. 

Other ways to prevent the spread of flu

Good hygiene

Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. You should do this after touching your nose or mouth and before touching food. 

An alcohol-based hand rub (hand sanitiser) is a good way to clean your hands if you don’t have access to soap and water. 

Use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Put the tissues into the bin immediately. 

Not sharing cups, plates, cutlery or towels. 

Regular cleaning 

Keep commonly used surfaces clean, such as your keyboard, phone and door handles. 

Boosting your immunity

Getting enough sleep can help to boost your immune system. 

Staying at home if you’re sick 

If you have the flu, it’s best to avoid close contact with people to stop them from also becoming sick. This is especially important if they have a compromised immune system. 

What about the coronavirus? 

While the coronavirus also causes a respiratory illness with some similar symptoms to the flu, there are important differences. You can find out more about the symptoms of COVID-19 at the Department of Health. 

If you are sick and think you might have COVID-19, check your symptoms using healthdirect's Coronavirus (COVID-19) Symptom Checker.




All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified healthcare professional.

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