The number of people going to see their GP with flu symptoms has doubled in recent weeks, sparking a warning from health bosses.
People most at risk of catching the virus have been urged to get themselves vaccinated – before they fall seriously ill.
NHS England’s medical director for Lancashire and South Cumbria, Dr Kieran Murphy, said: “For the majority of people, flu is an unpleasant illness, but they should start to feel better within seven days.
“The problem for people with long-term conditions is that they are more susceptible to complications if they catch the flu virus, because they have weakened immune systems.
“This means a bout of flu could turn quickly into a serious infection, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, which can cause longer-term damage to the lungs – and unfortunately some people end up in critical care in hospital.”
A spokeswoman for NHS England was unable to give exact figures, but said the number of people being admitted to hospital after catching the flu has also risen.
Fylde and Wyre Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which is responsible for organising and paying for residents’ healthcare, said those who haven’t had a free flu jab could end up costing the NHS more money in the long run.
Those at risk, who qualify for free vaccinations on the NHS, include those aged 65 and over, pregnant women, and patients with certain chronic conditions.
A free nasal spray vaccine at GP practices is also being given to children who were two or three years old in September – to protect them and their loved ones – while schoolchildren from reception class up to Year Four will be vaccinated in class.
Thornton GP Dr Tony Naughton said: “Flu isn’t just a bad cold. It’s a serious illness that can have dangerous and deadly consequences if you have an existing health condition like COPD, diabetes, heart disease, and other long-term ailments.
“So if you have been invited to get your free vaccine but still not had it, it’s important you get it soon. Why run the risk of illness which could be prevented by a simply vaccine?”
* If you have received an invitation for a free vaccine, you can contact your GP practice for an appointment.
* If you’re not eligible but would still like to protect yourself and your loved ones, you can speak to your pharmacist.
* Pregnant women should speak to their midwife.
* Visit www.nhs.uk/staywell for more information