Flu

You can often treat the flu without seeing your GP and you should begin to feel better in about a week.

Check if you have flu

Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include:

  • a sudden fever - a temperature of 38C or above
  • aching body
  • feeling tired or exhausted
  • dry, chesty cough
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • difficulty sleeping
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhoea or tummy pain
  • nausea and being sick

The symptoms are similar for children but they can also get pain in their ear and appear less active.

Telling the difference between cold and flu

Cold and flu symptoms are similar but flu tends to be more severe.

Flu Cold
Appears quickly within a few hours Appears gradually
Affects more than just your nose and throat Affects mainly your nose and throat
Makes you feel exhausted and too unwell to carry on as normal Makes you feel unwell but you’re okay to carry on as normal – for example, go to work

How to treat flu yourself

To help you get better more quickly:

  • rest and sleep
  • keep warm
  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower your temperature and treat aches and pains
  • drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration (your pee should be light yellow or clear)

A pharmacist can help with flu

A pharmacist can give treatment advice and recommend flu remedies.

Be careful not to use them if you’re taking paracetamol and ibuprofen tablets as it’s easy to take more than the recommended dose.

Speak to a pharmacist before giving medicines to children.

See your GP if:

  • your symptoms don’t improve after 7 days
  • you’re worried about your child’s symptoms
  • you’re 65 or over
  • you’re pregnant
  • you have a long-term medical condition – for example, diabetes or a heart, lung, kidney or neurological disease
  • you have a weakened immune system – for example, because of chemotherapy or HIV

Antibiotics

GPs don’t recommend antibiotics for flu because they won’t relieve your symptoms or speed up your recovery.

Call 999 or go to A&E if you:

  • develop sudden chest pain
  • have difficulty breathing
  • start coughing up blood

How to avoid spreading the flu

Flu is very infectious and easily spread to other people. You’re more likely to give it to others in the first 5 days.

Flu is spread by germs from coughs and sneezes which can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours.

To reduce the risk of spreading flu:

  • wash your hands often with warm water and soap
  • use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze
  • bin used tissues as quickly as possible

How to prevent flu

The flu vaccine reduces the risk of catching flu as well as spreading it to others.

It’s more effective to get the vaccine before the start of the flu season (December to March).

Find out if you’re eligible for the free NHS flu vaccine

Flu vaccination and side effects for adults

Flu vaccination and side effects for children

Call 111

If you can’t speak to your GP or don’t know what to do next.

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