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The Flu - Symptoms, vaccines and prevention
Published on 01 September 2017 by Katrina Powell, Specialist Nurse, updated on 29 August 2017
As scary as it sounds, winter is nearly here and what comes with winter apart from the darker nights, colder days, icy roads, and festivities?
A lot of people say, “I’ve got the flu!” but they may have just had a nasty cold.
Is it the flu or is it a cold, I hear you say?
It can sometimes be difficult to tell if you have the flu or just a cold, as the symptoms can be quite similar:
Flu symptoms: • come on quickly • usually include a temperature • aching muscles • and can make you feel too unwell to continue your usual activities
Cold symptoms: • come on gradually • mainly affect your nose and throat • and are mild, so you can still get around and are usually well enough to go to work
So what is the “flu”? The Flu is caused by a group of different viruses; and so, their symptoms tend to start more suddenly, be more severe and last longer. Some of the main symptoms of flu include: • a high temperature of 38C or above • tiredness and weakness • a headache • general aches and pains • a dry, chesty cough
The flu is spread by coughs and sneezes, which produce tiny droplets into the air where they stay and linger for a while; before settling on a surface or being breathed in by someone else.
You can catch the flu by simply breathing in the droplets or by touching an infected surface where the droplets have landed and then going and touching your nose or mouth, it’s as easy as that!
Having the Flu vaccine is one way of the best ways to prevent catching the virus. However, having the vaccine may not stop all flu viruses and this is down to the level of protection which may vary due to the virus strain changing each year, therefore it is important that you get the vaccine each year.
The flu vaccine does not 100% guarantee that you'll be flu-free, but if you do get flu after the vaccination it's likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it would have been otherwise.
There are other simple things you can do to also help with preventing the Flu such as: • always wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water • regularly cleaning surfaces such as your computer keyboard, telephone and door handles • using tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze • putting used tissues in a bin as soon as possible • Having the annual flu vaccine
The best remedy is to rest at home, keep warm and drink plenty of water. You can take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower a high temperature and relieve aches if necessary.
Make sure to visit your GP if: • you're 65 years of age or over • you're pregnant • you have a long-term medical condition • you have a weakened immune system • you develop chest pain, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or start coughing up blood • your symptoms are getting worse over time or haven't improved after a week
The best time to have the vaccine is in the autumn, so the end of September or October is the best time to get your vaccine and make sure that you and your family are fully prepared for this upcoming season.
To book an appointment for a vaccination, please call 0800 852 1234.