Guest blogs

Catch the vaccine, not the flu

Guest Blog Post produced and funded by AstraZeneca.
Intended for Great Britain Public

February brings many joys for children and their families: days slowly starting to get longer, winter walks with hot chocolates in hand, and settling back into a normal routine after the winter holiday hustle and bustle. Many children enjoy being back at school with their friends, excited for the opportunities that come along with the start of the New Year and a new term. But in addition to these seasonal joys, February also brings a less welcome visitor: the flu.

Flu season most often occurs in winter and typically peaks between January and March each year, leaving sick children and families in its wake.1 It’s estimated that 1 in 10 children could catch the flu this season, putting many others at risk.2 Flu is infectious and spreads easily to others from coughs and sneezes, with flu germs living on hands and surfaces for 24 hours.3 The virus spreads quickly amongst children. Not only do children stay infectious longer than adults, but a survey also revealed two-thirds of children don’t wash their hands, 48% don’t cover their mouths to sneeze or cough and a further 55% pick their nose.4,5 When kids are being kids, it’s no wonder the virus can make its way around.


Often more than “just a bad cold,” the flu can be miserable for children and young people. Although sharing similar symptoms, the flu is often worse than the common cold, and symptoms often tend to be more severe and appear quickly, often starting within a few hours after coming in contact with the virus.3 Flu can cause a fever, aching muscles, extreme tiredness, a stuffy nose, sore throat and dry cough.6,7 Some may also experience headaches, trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, diarrhoea or tummy pain, and nausea.3 Beyond feeling ill, the flu can lead to complications, such as a middle ear infection, respiratory complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia, and even hospitalisation, particularly for children under five years of age. 7,8 Flu can affect children’s back to school plans, as it can take up to around 7 days to recover from the illness; this means children may not only miss out on time spent with their friends but are absent from valuable learning time in class. 9 The flu presents difficulties for families as well, with parents often having to take time off work and the risk of other family members catching the virus as well.10

The child flu vaccine can help children fight off the illness, as it helps to build up a child’s immunity to the virus, reducing their chances of catching the flu. 7 This means that if your child comes into contact with these flu viruses after receiving their flu vaccine, their immune system will be more prepared to fight off the infection.7,11

The child flu vaccine can make the flu virus less transmissible, which can help reduce the spread of flu; this can help protect those in your family who may be at greater risk from flu, such as grandparents, or those with long-term health conditions.7,11 You can learn more about the child flu vaccination programme by contacting your healthcare team or by visiting, an AstraZeneca disease awareness website.

This winter, those eligible for a free child flu vaccine are all 2 and 3 year olds, all primary school children, and secondary school-age children up to years 9 and years 10 and 11 if available in England, and up to years 11 in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – full details can be found here (an AstraZeneca disease awareness website).12-16 This extends to those from 6 months to 17 years old with certain health conditions. For full eligibility criteria, check with your healthcare team.

Eligible children from two years old can receive a free nasal flu vaccine, given as a single spray in each nostril. 7 This is a quick and needle-free vaccination that can help protect your child against flu.17 If the nasal spray is not suitable for your child, an alternative injectable flu vaccine may be offered. 7

These vaccines are administered in schools by immunisation teams, in locally run community clinics, and in GP practices.

Some parents may be concerned about the use of porcine gelatine in the production of the nasal flu vaccine. The gelatine used is highly purified and broken down so it is different from the gelatine in food; as a result, no animal DNA is detectable in the final product.7,18 Some faith communities accept the use of porcine gelatine medical products – however the decision to vaccinate your child with the nasal flu vaccine is still your choice.18

If your child gets any side effects after receiving the vaccination, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse. You can report side effects directly via the Yellow Card Scheme at By reporting side effects, you can help provide more information on the safety of medicines.

To learn more about childhood flu vaccination, speak to your GP or healthcare team, or visit (an AstraZeneca disease awareness website) to learn about flu, child flu vaccination, side effects, find answers to frequently asked questions and more.

GB-41152 February 2023


  1. GOV.UK. Seasonal Influenza: Guidance, Data and Analysis. 17 November 2021. Last Accessed January 2023. Available at:
  2. Global influenza strategy 2019-2030. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2019.
  3. NHS website. Flu. September 2019. Last Accessed January 2023 Available at:
  4. Usonis V et al. BMC Infect Dis. 2010;10:168.
  5. AstraZeneca UK Ltd. Data on File. ID: REF-65291. October 2019.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seasonal Influenza, Symptoms & Diagnosis, Cold Versus Flu. July 2021. Last Accessed January 2023 Available at:
  7. Public Health England: Protecting your child against flu. Flu immunisation in England. May 2022. Last Accessed January 2023 Available at:
  8. Cromer D et al. J. Infect. 2014;68(4):363-371.
  9. Willacy H. Influenza and Flu-like illness. September 2022. Last Accessed January 2023 Available at:
  10. Ambrose CS, Antonova EN. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis.2014;33(4):569-575 doi: 10.1007/s10096-013-1986-6.
  11. Mameli C, et al. Front. Pediatr. 2019;7:317 doi:
  12. NI Direct government services: Last Accessed January 2023.
  13. GOV.UK. Statements of amendments to annual flu letter-21 July 2022. Last Accessed January 2023.
  14. Waite, Ramsey & Russell. The NHS influenza immunisation programme 2022 to 2023 letter. Last Accessed January 2023.
  15. Atherton, The Welsh Health Circular, Reimbursable vaccines and eligible cohorts for the 2022/23 NHS Seasonal Influenza (flu) vaccination programme. Last Accessed January 2023.
  16. CMO letter 2022/23. Last Accessed January 2023.
  17. NHS Website. Child flu vaccine. Last Accessed January 2023.
  18. Public Health England. NHS. Vaccines and porcine gelatine. August 2019. Last Accessed January 2023. Available at:
Guest Blogs, Life of a Mum

Breast Cancer Awareness- Guest Blog

Jen Parker has been in the publishing industry for over a decade and founded her own publishing brand Fuzzy Flamingo in 2017. She now specialises in helping authors to self-publish and has had the privilege of working on dozens of Amazon best sellers.

She loves to discuss publishing and regularly talks about the importance of telling your story, and followed her own advice by publishing her own book in May this year called “Unflip: changing your life after a life-changing diagnosis”. You can find out more about her book (use the discount FUZZY3 to get £3 off the paperback RRP) and her publishing services on her website or find her on Facebook and Instagram by searching for @FuzzyFlamingoDesign

I was in my final year of university when my mum got diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2008. She had been due to have her mammogram later in the year but was called in early because of the timings with the mobile scanning unit. It was good timing. The scan revealed the cancer that even the consultant couldn’t feel after they knew it was there. It is incredibly important to check yourself for lumps, but mammograms are there for when that may not be enough.

Mum and Lily

She had surgery to remove the lump, but it had gone deeper than they had originally thought, and it had spread to her lymph nodes under that arm. What followed was a single mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The treatment was deemed a success, she was on medication for five years and then was signed off as being completely in remission. She was told that if she got cancer again it would be a new type, as they’d got it all. We were all over the moon. My mum, the tough scouser, had fought off cancer and won.

2018: Me, my mum and Lily with Amber in my growing belly in November 2018.

Seven years after her first diagnosis, just months before my wedding in 2015, she started being sick and couldn’t stop. It didn’t seem like an infection. It felt different. After being discharged from the hospital once with antibiotics, she ended up back with her GP who wouldn’t take no for an answer from the hospital, who readmitted her and scanned her abdomen. A blockage was found in her bowel, which they removed. On testing the removed cells, they found they were breast cancer cells. It was back.

The shock was unreal. How could this happen? The policies have since been changed, and if she were to have the same treatment now, she would be on the ongoing treatment for ten years rather than five. She was at least grateful that she may have helped to help others in a similar situation who followed to have a different outcome.

The cancer had spread through her abdomen, surrounding some of her organs, which meant removal wasn’t possible. She was on treatment to shrink the cancer and to keep it from spreading, which meant she was under palliative care. That phrase ‘palliative care’ frightened me. I worried that it meant she was dying, but she reassured me that it was all under control. And she did really well, other than the complications she had from her bowel surgery, which caused uncomfortable fluid retention. But for several years she was fit and active, and most people would have no idea she was a cancer patient.

But those worries were still there for me. She was stoic and would try and protect my brother and I as much as possible, which meant she didn’t always tell us the full story. We began to share information between us to ensure we had as full a picture as possible! I’d asked my mum if they were going to regularly scan her abdomen to ensure the treatment was working. She’d asked the consultant the same question and was told they wouldn’t. She asked how they’d know the treatment was working and was told, “If you start being sick again, you need to seek medical attention.” That didn’t sit well with me.

In early 2018, ten years after her initial diagnosis, she was diagnosed with further cancer in her abdomen. A third diagnosis in a decade. Shortly after, I told my mum I was expecting my second child. “That gives me a reason to get through till Christmas,” she said. But whenever I queried her diagnosis, she would always reply, “I’ve fought it before, I’ll fight it again.” And she did. Despite her abdomen frequently needing the fluid draining and her often quipping, “I look more pregnant than you!” (which did make us chuckle when we compared bellies), she was strong, active, fun-loving and there for me throughout my pregnancy.

At home: In between her two-week stay in hospital and transferring to LOROS, we had a couple of days of my mum being at home. She loved visits from the girls, Lily (2) and Amber (3 months).

My husband worked away a lot at the time, and with me having arthritis and needing c-sections in order to give birth, I felt like I couldn’t have done it the first time without my mum. The thought of potentially doing it a second time without her terrified me. I’d find myself standing in the shower crying if I thought about it. How would I cope? Was I being selfish thinking about me when I should be thinking about her? I was so angry and frustrated. If they’d just scanned her regularly, would they have been able to do something? If they’d listened to her earlier, would it have made a difference?

My mum was there to meet my second daughter the week before Christmas in 2018. We celebrated Christmas all together as a family. I looked at her on that day as she held my baby and wondered if it would be the last Christmas we’d have with her.

Christmas Day 2018: My mum holding Amber exactly a week after she was born (my brother’s in the background, as we were celebrating at his house).

In February 2019, I got the call I’d been dreading. My mum was in hospital as she’d been vomiting, and they weren’t able to stop it. After a week, the consultant called and asked me to go in and speak to him in person. I knew what was coming, but it was still a massive shock. There was nothing more they could do. She’d only be with us for a matter of weeks.

After two weeks in the hospital, after a short-lived trip home, my mum moved to LOROS, our amazing local hospice. They cared for her and made her as comfortable as possible in a beautiful setting. I will never forget the kindness and humour of the staff. I was able to be with her and my family when she died, and I will always be grateful for being able to spend that remaining time with her.

Hospice: The last photo I have of my mum with my girls, not long before she died. You can already see the substantial weightloss

Cancer doesn’t just affect the person undergoing treatment, and it is often a very long recovery process. With breast cancer awareness month, the message I’d like to share is this: check yourself, but also get checked. Say yes to the mammograms. Request a second opinion if you feel like something isn’t quite right. Although you’re talking to experts, they’re not infallible, and you know your body. The treatment has improved so much since my mum was diagnosed, and as we learn more, we can help other families to avoid heartache like mine.