One of the most important things that a parent can do for their child is to make sure that they have all their routine childhood vaccinations. It’s the most effective way of keeping them protected against infectious diseases.
Ideally, kids should have their jabs at the right age to protect them as early as possible and minimise the risk of infection.
Here’s a checklist of the vaccines that are routinely offered to everyone in the UK for free on the NHS, and the age at which you should ideally have them.
- Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib, a bacterial infection that can cause severe pneumonia or meningitis in young children) given as a 5-in-1 single jab known as DTaP/IPV/Hib
- Pneumococcal infection
- 5-in-1, second dose (DTaP/IPV/Hib)
- Meningitis C
- 5-in-1, third dose (DTaP/IPV/Hib)
- Pneumococcal infection, second dose
- Meningitis C, second dose
Between 12 and 13 months:
- Meningitis C, third dose
- Hib, fourth dose (Hib/MenC given as a single jab)
- MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), given as a single jab
- Pneumococcal infection, third dose
3 years and 4 months, or soon after:
- MMR second jab
- Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio (DtaP/IPV), given as a 4-in-1 pre-school booster
Around 12-13 years:
- Cervical cancer (HPV) vaccine, which protects against cervical cancer (girls only): three jabs given within six months
Around 13-18 years:
- Diphtheria, tetanus and polio booster (Td/IPV), given as a single jab
65 and over:
- Flu (every year)
Vaccines For Risk Groups
People who fall into certain risk groups may be offered extra vaccines. These include vaccinations against diseases such as hepatitis B, tuberculosis (TB), seasonal flu and chickenpox. See the NHS Choices pages on vaccines for adults to find out whether you should have one.
Read more about vaccines for kids on the NHS Choices website.
Content provided by NHS Choices.
Want to Stop Smoking?
NHS Choices suggest eight practical, quick and simple steps you can take straight away to quit smoking
1. Talk to your GP
Many people don’t realise that their GP can help them quit smoking. But your doctor can do a lot, such as enrolling you in a ‘stop smoking’ clinic and prescribing nicotine replacement therapy such as patches and gum, or stop smoking medication such as Champix.
Find out more about how your GP can help you quit.
2. Join an NHS Stop Smoking Service
The NHS has stop smoking services staffed by trained stop smoking advisers all over the country in a range of venues at times to suit you. You can join a group where local smokers meet once a week or have one-to-one support if you prefer. You usually go for a few weeks and work towards a quit date.
Find your nearest NHS Stop Smoking Service from the NHS Smokefree website, or call 0800 022 4332.
3. Get a free ‘Quit Kit’
The kit is packed with practical tools and advice to help you stop smoking, including a ‘tangle’ to keep hands busy, a wallchart to keep track of your progress, stress-busting MP3 downloads, information on medicines that can help you stop smoking and exercises to improve your willpower.
4. Get a ‘cheerleader’ and stop smoking togetherSign up for the NHS Smokefree Together Programme and you’ll receive a supportive phone call, email and text the week before you quit, the day you quit and the following week.
5. Have an emergency phone number
Keep an emergency number, perhaps for your local NHS Stop Smoking Service.
Read more about how to cope with cravings.
6. Consider using NRT
Nicotine is addictive, and self-control alone might not be enough. Give yourself a better chance of success by using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). This is available either free or on prescription from your GP, depending on where you live or from your local NHS Stop Smoking Service.
Find your nearest NHS Stop Smoking Service from the NHS Smokefree website, or call 0800 022 4332. Or, you can buy nicotine patches, gum and so on over the counter from a pharmacy.
7. Email an expertAsk an expert for advice through NHS Smokefree’s Ask an expert service.
8. Get online help
Use our stop smoking tool to get daily tips for success.
Read more about the stop smoking treatments available on the NHS.
Content provided by NHS Choices.
Flu and the vaccine
Flu is a highly infectious illness that spreads rapidly through the coughs and sneezes of people who are carrying the virus.
If you’re at risk of complications from flu, make sure you have your annual flu jab available from September onwards.Flu symptoms can hit quite suddenly and severely. They usually include fever, chills, headaches and aching muscles. You can often get a cough and sore throat.
Because flu is caused by a virus and not bacteria, antibiotics won’t treat it.
Anyone can get flu, but it can be more serious for certain people, such as:
- people aged 65 or over
- people who have a serious medical condition
- pregnant women
If you are in one of these groups, you’re more vulnerable to the effects of flu (even if you’re fit and healthy) and could develop flu complications, which are more serious illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia, which could result in hospitalisation.
Flu can also make existing medical conditions worse.
Read more about flu.
Should you have the flu jab?
See your GP about the flu jab if you’re 65 or over, or if you have any of the following problems (however old you are):
- a serious heart complaint
- a chest complaint or breathing difficulties, including asthma, bronchitis and emphysema
- serious kidney disease
- lowered immunity due to disease or treatment such as steroid medication or cancer treatment
- if you have a problem with your spleen or you have had your spleen removed
- if you have ever had a stroke
Your GP may advise you to have a flu jab if you have serious liver disease, multiple sclerosis (MS) or some other diseases of the nervous system.
Can I get a flu jab privately?
Yes, you can pay for the flu vaccination privately if you’re unable to have it on the NHS. It is available from some pharmacies and GPs on a private patient basis.
Pregnant women and the flu jab
If you’re pregnant, you should have the flu jab, regardless of the stage of pregnancy you’ve reached. Pregnant women are more prone to complications from flu that can cause serious illness for both mother and baby.
If you are pregnant and catch flu, talk to your GP urgently as you may need treatment with antiviral medicine.
Read more about the flu jab in pregnancy.
Children and the flu jab
You may have read that all children are now able to have the flu jab on the NHS. This isn’t quite true. Although it’s been recommended that all children between the ages of 2 and 17 should have an annual flu vaccination, this won’t be offered to them on the NHS until 2014. For more information read our flu vaccine for children Q&A.
In the meantime, it’s important that children with a long-term health condition receive the flu jab because their illness could get worse if they catch flu. This includes any child over the age of six months with a long-term health problem such as a serious respiratory or neurological condition.
If you have a child with a long-term condition, speak to your GP about whether they should have the flu vaccination.
Carers and the flu jab
If you’re the carer of an elderly or disabled person, make sure they’ve had their flu jab. As a carer, you could be eligible for a flu jab too. Ask your GP for advice, or read our information about Flu jabs for carers.
How to get the flu jab
If you think you need a flu vaccination, check with your GP, practice nurse or your local pharmacist.
The best time of the year to have a flu vaccination is in the autumn from September to early November. Most GP surgeries arrange flu vaccination clinics around this time. It’s free and it’s effective against the latest flu virus strains.
Even if you’ve already had a flu jab in previous years, you need another one this year. The flu jab may only protect you for a year. This is because the viruses that cause flu are always changing.
The pneumo jab
When you see your GP for a flu jab, ask whether you also need the ‘pneumo jab‘ to protect you against some forms of pneumococcal infection. Like the flu jab, it’s available free on the NHS to everyone aged 65 or over, and for younger people with some serious medical conditions.
How effective is the flu jab?
No vaccine is 100% effective, however, people who have had the flu jab are less likely to get flu. If you do get flu despite having the jab, it will probably be milder than if you haven’t been vaccinated.
The flu jab doesn’t cause flu as it doesn’t contain live viruses. However, you may experience side effects after having the jab, such as a temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days afterwards. Your arm may feel sore at the site where you were injected. More severe reactions are rare.
The flu vaccine only protects against flu, but not other illnesses caused by other viruses, such as the common cold.
Who shouldn’t have the flu jab?
You shouldn’t have the flu vaccination if:
- you’ve had a serious reaction to a flu vaccination before
- you have a high temperature (postpone it until you’re better)
Not all flu vaccines are suitable for children, so discuss this with your GP beforehand.
Speak to your GP, practice nurse or pharmacist if you have any further questions.
Read more about the flu jab.
Content provided by NHS Choices.
Get Fit For Free
The secret to getting fit for free is to use every opportunity to be active.
Armed with a bit of get-up-and-go and good planning, you can be fitter than ever without spending a penny.
NHS Choices have enlisted the help of top fitness experts to help you explore new ways and places to exercise for free. Click on the following to find out more:
One in four affected
It’s easy to think that mental health issues don’t concern us, but in fact a quarter of us will have problems with our mental wellbeing at some time in our lives.
Mental health problems are equally common in men and women, but the types of problems differ. Women are one-and-a-half times more likely to be affected by anxiety and depression, while men suffer more from substance abuse (one in eight men is dependent on alcohol) and anti-social personality disorders. Men are also more prone to suicide: British men are three times more likely than British women to die as a result of suicide.
Serious mental health problems are also more common than you might think. One person in 100 has a severe mental health condition such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
All these figures are based on people who have sought help for their mental health problems. Many more could be living with undiagnosed mental health issues, according to mental health charity MIND.
If you’re worried about your mental health, or if someone in your life is affected, there are plenty of ways to get help. Find out more about mental health support.
You can also contact mental health charities such as Sane and the Mental Health Foundation.
Contraception is free for most people in the UK. With 15 methods to choose from, you’ll find one that suits you.
Contraceptive methods allow you to choose when and if you want to have a baby, but they don’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms help to protect against STIs and pregnancy, so whatever other method of contraception you’re using to prevent pregnancy, use condoms as well to protect your and your partner’s health.
Where to get it
Contraceptive services are free and confidential, including to people under 16 as long as they are mature enough to understand the information and decisions involved. There are strict guidelines to for care professionals who work with people under 16.
You can get contraception free from:
- most GP surgeries (talk to your GP or practice nurse),
- community contraceptive clinics,
- some genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics,
- sexual health clinics (these offer contraceptive and STI testing services), and
- some young people’s services (call 0800 567123).
Many of these places also offer information, testing and treatment for STIs. If you’ve been exposed to the risk of pregnancy, you’re also at risk of catching an STI.
Before you make an appointment, make sure you’re as informed as possible about the contraceptive options available. People’s choice of contraception may vary over time, depending on their lifestyle and circumstances.
Contraception and menopause
Women who have sex with men and don’t want to get pregnant need to keep on using contraception until they haven’t had a period for more than 12 months (menopause).
This is because periods can become irregular before they stop entirely, and pregnancy can still occur during this time. Find out more about menopause.
The methods of contraception
There are lots of methods to choose from, so don’t be put off if the first thing you use isn’t quite right for you; you can try another. You can read about each of the different methods of contraception by visiting these pages:
- Combined pill
- Condoms (female)
- Condoms (male)
- Contraceptive implant
- Contraceptive injection
- Contraceptive patch
- Intrauterine device (IUD)
- Intrauterine system (IUS)
- Natural family planning
- Progestogen-only pill
- Vaginal ring
There are two permanent methods of contraception:
To find your nearest contraception clinic you can use the NHS Choices service search. Enter your postcode, click ‘search’, then click ‘contraception’.
You can also look in the phone book under ‘sexual health’, or use the fpa clinic finder.
You can find out more about each type of contraception by contacting:
- FPA: provider of information on individual methods of contraception, common sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy choices, abortion and planning a pregnancy. www.fpa.org.uk
- Brook: the young people’s sexual health charity for under-25s. www.askbrook.org.uk
In addition to your chosen method of contraception, you need to use condoms to prevent STIs. Always buy condoms that have the CE mark on the packet. This means that they’ve been tested to the high European safety standards. Condoms that don’t have the CE mark won’t meet these standards, so don’t use them.
Content provided by NHS Choices.
There’s no point spending hours choosing your swimwear, beach bag and flip-flops if you barely think about the bugs and other health risks that could ruin your holiday.
Almost one in four UK holidaymakers don’t get any vaccinations despite travelling to areas that have life-threatening infectious disease.
Find out which travel jabs you need for your destination.
It’s not worth skipping travel vaccinations. Infectious diseases can make you very sick, spoil your holiday and even kill or cripple you.
Vaccinations protect you against many travel-related infections, such as yellow fever, typhoid and hepatitis A. Use the information on these pages to learn about travel vaccines, which ones you need for your destination, and when and where to get them.
For additional general information, read our articles on travel health.
The vaccinations currently available for travellers abroad.
What’s available on the NHS?
Some travel vaccinations are freely available on the NHS. Others are only available privately.
More on NHS and private travel jabs
When and where
Where and when to have your travel jabs.
Content provided by NHS Choices.
Looking after someone?
Caring for someone can be very difficult and many people find that they need extra help with the care they provide.
Find out what support you might be able to receive here – provided by NHS Choices. This page also provides lots of help and advice.
Carers Direct – 0808 802 0202
Free, confidential information and advice for carers.
Lines are open 8am to 9pm Monday to Friday, 11am to 4pm at weekends. Calls are free from UK landlines or you can request a free call back.
You can also ask for a call back in one of more than 170 languages.
You can send a query to our advisers by email.
Find out more about the Carers Direct helpline.