No one wants to get sick with the winter flu. This group of viral illnesses are more severe and longer lasting than colds. In some cases, they can even prove deadly. Each year in the UK, around 600 people die from a complication of flu, and this figure rises to 13,000 during an epidemic. If you contract one of these viruses, you can expect to suffer a sudden high temperature, general aches and pains, headaches, tiredness and a sore throat. You might also experience a loss of appetite, nausea and a cough. Fortunately, there are things you can do to tackle the flu, and this brief guide talks you through the basics.
How to fend it off
First and foremost, it’s important that you do your best to prevent you and the people around you from getting the flu in the first place. The viruses are spread in small droplets of fluid that are coughed and sneezed into the air by infected individuals. As well as inhaling these droplets directly, it’s possible to pick up the flu by touching surfaces that have been contaminated. This is why effective hygiene is crucial. Make sure you wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Also, clean surfaces like your telephone and computer keyboard on a regular basis. You can use special cleansing wipes provided by medical suppliers like Steroplast to raise hygiene levels in your home or workplace.
Another preventative measure is the flu jab. This is available free on the NHS for those over the age of 65, pregnant women and people with underlying health problems. Meanwhile, under certain circumstances, antiviral medication is recommended. You might be advised to take medicines like Relenza or Tamiflu for protection if there is a lot of flu around, if you have a medical condition that puts you at risk of flu or if you’ve not been effectively protected by vaccination.
What to do if you get it
Of course, it’s not possible to completely eliminate the risk that you’ll get the flu. If you do, you can expect your symptoms to peak after two to three days, and you should start to feel better after around a week, although you might remain fatigued for longer. While you’re ill, it’s important to rest, keep warm and stay hydrated. If you’re feverish, you can take paracetamol or anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen to lower your temperature and minimise pain.
If you’re in a high risk group and you’re more likely to suffer complications, your doctor might prescribe you antivirals. Although they won’t cure you, they could relieve your symptoms and reduce the length of your illness.
By making sure you’re in the know when it comes to flu, and by stocking up on hygiene and medical supplies, you stand a better chance of tackling these nasty viruses.