Fight the flu, get the jab!
Flu is a highly infectious viral illness that is spread by coughs and sneezes. It’s not the same as the common cold. Flu is caused by a different group of viruses and symptoms tend to be more severe and last for longer.
You can catch flu – short for influenza – all year round, but it is especially common in winter, which is why it is also known as ‘seasonal flu’.
Flu causes a sudden high temperature, headache and general aches and pains, tiredness and sore throat. You can also lose your appetite, feel nauseous and have a cough. Flu symptoms can make you feel so exhausted and unwell that you have to stay in bed and rest until you feel better.
When to see a doctor
If you have flu-like symptoms, but are otherwise fit and healthy, there is usually no need to see a doctor. The best remedy is to rest at home, keep warm and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. A pharmacist will be able to provide medicine to help lower a high temperature and relieve aches.
You should see a doctor if you have flu-like symptoms and you:
- are 65 or over
- are pregnant
- have a long-term medical condition such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, kidney or neurological disease
- have a weakened immune system
This is because flu can be more serious for you, and your doctor may want to prescribe antiviral medication. Antiviral medicine can lessen the symptoms of flu and shorten its duration, but treatment needs to start soon after flu symptoms have begun in order to be effective.
Antibiotics are of no use in the treatment of flu because it is caused by a virus and not bacteria.
Read more about how to treat flu and who should see a doctor on NHS Choices [external site].
Preventing the spread of flu
The flu virus is spread in the small droplets of fluid coughed or sneezed into the air by an infected person. These droplets can travel a metre or so and infect anyone within range who breathes them in.
Flu can also spread if someone with the virus transfers it on their fingers. For example, if you have flu and you touch your nose or eyes and then touch someone else, you may pass the virus on to them. Similarly if you have flu and touch common hard surfaces such as door handles with unwashed hands then other people who touch the surface after you can pick up the infection.
You can help stop yourself getting flu in the first place or spreading it to others by being careful with your hygiene.
Always wash your hands regularly with soap and water and:
- regularly clean surfaces such as your keyboard, telephone and door handles to get rid of germs
- use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
- put used tissues in a bin as soon as possible
You can also help stop the spread of flu if you avoid all unnecessary contact with other people while you’re infectious. You should stay off work until you are no longer infectious and you are feeling better.
Tagged under: Flu
Page last updated on July 23rd, 2012