Information and advice to help you get through winter flu

Flu

Flu is a common infectious viral illness spread by coughs and sneezes. It can be very unpleasant, but you’ll usually begin to feel better within about a week.

You can catch flu – short for influenza – all year round, but it’s especially common in winter, which is why it’s also known as “seasonal flu”.

It’s not the same as the common cold. Flu is caused by a different group of viruses and the symptoms tend to start more suddenly, be more severe and last longer.

What to do

If you’re otherwise fit and healthy, there’s usually no need to see a doctor if you have flu-like symptoms.

The best remedy is to rest at home, keep warm and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. You can take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower a high temperature and relieve aches if necessary.

Stay off work or school until you’re feeling better. For most people, this will take about a week.

Flu vaccine

A flu vaccine is available for free on the NHS for:

  • anyone over the age of 65
  • pregnant women
  • children and adults with an underlying health condition (particularly long-term heart or lung disease)
  • children and adults with weakened immune systems

An annual flu vaccine nasal spray is also offered to healthy children aged two and three, and to children in reception class and school years one, two, three and four.

The best time to have the vaccine is in the autumn, from the beginning of October to early November. If you think you might need it, contact your local GP surgery.

You should have the flu vaccination every year so you stay protected, as the viruses that cause flu change every year.

Symptoms

Some of the main symptoms of flu include:

  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • tiredness and weakness
  • a headache
  • general aches and pains
  • a dry, chesty cough

Cold-like symptoms – such as a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, and a sore throat – can also be caused by flu, but they tend to be less severe than the other symptoms you have.

Flu can make you feel so exhausted and unwell that you have to stay in bed and rest until you feel better.

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