Flu, or influenza, is a virus that many of us will have experienced at one time. It is extremely contagious and very common.
It is often confused with a cold, but flu symptoms are much worse. Flu leaves you feeling so poorly that you struggle to get out of bed.
Flu symptoms appear quickly and usually last around a week. You can catch the symptoms all year round and although it is more common in the winter months. It is spread by people coughing and sneezing.
What is the difference between a cold and the flu?
A cold and the flu are caused by different viruses but have similar symptoms so they can be hard to tell apart.
The flu usually has a faster onset than a cold. A cold can develop over a few days. Furthermore, the flu usually has more severe symptoms than a cold, as listed below. With a cold, you usually only have a runny or blocked nose, a sore throat, sneezing, headaches, and sometimes a cough,
The flu has more serious complications which can be very dangerous and may include:
Temp of 38ªF or higher
Wheezing when you breath
The symptoms will usually clear up on their own and the symptoms may last a couple of days to a week. However, if you are pregnant or over the age of 65 years, and your symptoms do not improve after a week, you should seek medical advice and speak to an Ahmeys expert prescriber.
If you start coughing up blood, have chest pain or breathing difficulties go to A&E or call 999 urgently.
The flu is caused by a virus which is spread when someone coughs up or sneezes.
The germs can live on your hands and other surfaces for 24 hours, which is what makes it so contagious. You catch it from someone sneezing next to you on the bus, by kissing someone who has the virus, or by touching something someone else who has the virus has touched. It then enters the body through your mouth, nose, or eyes.
To help prevent the virus you should:
- wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water, or use anti-bacterial hand gel.
- stay away from anyone who has the virus whilst they are ill, particularly if they are coughing or sneezing
- avoid touching your face as much as possible, as the germs get in through your mouth, nose and eyes
- get a flu vaccination
- keep healthy- eat a balanced diet and get plenty of exercise
How is the flu diagnosed?
For most people, the flu will not need a diagnosis or medical treatment, as it will clear up on its own within a week.
However, some people are at higher risk of complications from the flu and if this is the case you may need medical advice and treatment.
Here are some self-care measures you can try whilst your getting better:
- stay at home and get plenty of rest and sleep
- drink lots of fluid to prevent dehydration
- keep yourself warm
- treat your cough with over-the-counter medication if you wish
How is the flu treated?
Antibiotics will not work against the flu, as it is caused by a viral infection. If you fit and healthy then you will usually need just to rest at home until you recover. Speak to an Ahmeys prescriber if your symptoms do not go away after a week or you are at risk of complications due to the flu.