Every year, bouts of flu cause the winter season to become miserable and uncomfortable for large numbers of people. A flu outbreak spreads quickly, passing easily from one person to the next. However, flu can prove to be very serious and debilitating for some, particularly those with underlying health conditions. To protect those who are more vulnerable, and to protect ourselves from the miseries of flu, the advice is simple – Catch it, Bin it, Kill it.
This Year’s Flu Outbreak
The winter season of 2017-18 has seen the worst flu outbreak in the UK in 7 years. The worst outbreak has been seen in Wales, where cases of visits to the GP with flu symptoms have quadrupled in the past few months. Hospitalisation due to flu complications have also seen a sharp increase nationwide.
Every year, the flu virus alters to become a different strain to the last, so it is not possible to completely eliminate the illness through flu vaccines. This year there are 4 different strains circulating, one of which is causing a worse level of illness than is usually seen,
Luckily, this year’s epidemic appears to have reached its peak, with rates of GP visits and hospitalisation gradually dropping.
There is quite a considerable difference between a common cold and flu, although some symptoms may initially seem similar, such as sore throat and headache. However, a cold is much less debilitating: you are unlikely to be unable to work, for instance. A cold will also manifest much more gradually than flu – it will often appear very quickly over a matter of hours. Additionally, a cold is likely to mainly affect your nose and throat, while flu will be felt throughout the whole body.
Other symptoms of flu can include:
- A fever (temperatures over 38C are considered feverish)
- An aching body, feeling tired or exhausted
- Dry, chesty cough
- Loss of appetite
- Diarrhoea, tummy pain, nausea or vomiting
- Children may also experience ear pain
Treating Flu – What To Do
If you suspect that you or your child may have flu, it is not advisable to visit your GP in case the infection spreads. Unless you have reason to believe you may also be suffering from a secondary infection, it is unlikely that a GP would be able to do very much for you.
You can treat the symptoms of flu at home by having plenty of rest, keeping warm, drinking plenty (particularly if you are suffering from diarrhoea and/or vomiting), and by taking ibuprofen for aches and pains, and paracetamol for a high temperature. For more information on flu remedies, you can speak to your local pharmacist.
When To Seek Advice
You can call to make an appointment with your GP if you are worried about any of your or your child’s symptoms. This is advisable if any of the symptoms seem to be worsening, or if they do not show any signs of abating after around 7 days.
It is also recommended that you contact your GP if you are pregnant, are aged over 65, have a long-term medical condition such as diabetes, heart or lung disease, or a neurological disease, or if you have a weakened immune system.
Preventing The Spread Of Flu
Flu is very contagious and can easily be passed on by coughs and sneezes. It is most infectious during the first five days that a person has the virus. Although the flu vaccine does reduce the chances of a person catching flu, it does not entirely eliminate the risk. In order to protect ourselves and those who may be at risk of complications, we can do a number of simple things to catch germs before they spread:
- Wash your hands regularly with warm water and soap
- Use tissues to catch germs when you cough or sneeze
- Bin used tissues as soon as possible
Catch it, Bin it, Kill it
For further information on the flu outbreak, you can visit the NHS website. If you suspect that you may have flu and would like to seek further advice, you can call NHS Direct on 111. They will also be able to put you directly through to your local out of hours service if the deem it necessary for you to speak to a GP.