Seasonal Flu

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What is seasonal flu?

Seasonal flu is a very common viral illness. It is spread by coughs and sneezes and can be highly infectious. Many people mistake it for the common cold. However, flu is more severe and tends to last for longer. It can be caught all year round but is particularly common in winter, hence the name 'seasonal flu'. 

What are the symptoms of flu?

The most common symptoms of flu are a sudden high temperature (38C/100.4F), sore throat, cough, headache, tiredness and general aches and pains. Flu can also cause nausea, loss of appetite, runny or blocked nose, sneezing and cause you difficulty sleeping. 

Symptoms are usually at their worst two to three days after the onset of symptoms. You should begin to feel much better within five to eight days. In the worst cases, there can be signs of flu for up to two to three weeks. 

How do I treat seasonal flu?

The best advice is to rest at home, stay warm and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. You can take paracetemol or ibuprofen to ease symptoms. There is no need to visit your GP or A&E department unless you have a pre-existing medical condition that may worsen as a result of flu.

There are certain groups that should visit their GP if they have flu-like symptoms including:

  • Those aged 65 years of age or over
  • Pregnant women
  • Those with a chronic health condition, such as heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, kidney problems or neurological disease
  • Those with a weak immune system.
  • Flu symptoms can be more serious for these groups and medication may need to be prescribed. Antibiotics are not usually prescribed to treat flu as they have no effect on viruses. 

The Flu Jab

A flu jab available free on the NHS if you are a person in one of the high-risk groups. See your GP if you:

  • Are pregnant
  • 65 years old or over
  • Are a health worker or carer
  • Have a serious medical condition
  • Live in a residential or nursing home.

The vaccine is usually available from October each year, so speak to your GP if you think you need it. Flu jabs are now available through local pharmacies.

How to prevent the spread of seasonal flu

Seasonal flu can be highly infectious. It is usually spread when an infected person sneezes or coughs small droplets of fluid into the air. These droplets can affect anyone in close proximity to the infected person. 

Flu can also be spread when an infected person transfers the virus by touching another person or surface. It is particularly common for the virus to be spread on common hard surfaces such as door handles, handrails, keyboards and telephones. 

The best advice for some infected with flu is:

  • Always wash your hands regularly with soap and water
  • Ensure common surfaces are cleaned regularly
  • Use tissues to cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough
  • Place used tissues in the bin as soon as you have used them. 
  • Avoid contact with other people. If you are ill, stay off work and rest until you feel better. 

Where can I find more information on seasonal flu?

You can find out more information on seasonal flu by visiting the NHS Choices website.