What is Flu?
Flu is a common infectious viral illness spread by coughs and sneezes. It can be very unpleasant, but you'll usually begin to feel better within about a week. You can catch flu – short for influenza – all year round, but it's especially common in winter, which is why it's also known as "seasonal flu". It's not the same as the common cold. Flu is caused by a different group of viruses and the symptoms tend to start more suddenly, be more severe and last longer. Some of the main symptoms of flu include:
- a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
- tiredness and weakness
- a headache
- general aches and pains
- a dry, chesty cough
Cold-like symptoms – such as a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, and a sore throat – can also be caused by flu, but they tend to be less severe than the other symptoms you have.
Flu can make you feel so exhausted and unwell that you have to stay in bed and rest until you feel better.
I have flu symptoms should I see a GP?
Some people are at particular risk of severe illness like pneumonia if they catch flu. If you are concerned about your symptoms or they are getting worse, especially if you have one of the conditions that put you at risk of complications, contact your GP.
Am I in an at risk group?
The following list shows conditions that mean you could be more at increased risk of severe illness if you catch flu:
- weakened immune system due to illness eg HIV or treatment eg cancer patients
- chronic respiratory disease eg severe asthma, bronchitis
- chronic heart disease
- chronic kidney disease
- chronic liver disease
- chronic neurological conditions eg Parkinsons disease or learning difficulties
- pregnant women
Should I get the flu vaccine?
Yes - The purpose of the flu vaccination is to protect people from severe illness. Every year thousands of people are admitted to hospital due to flu and the complications of flu. The best way to protect you and your family is to get the flu vaccination. Vaccinations are available in pharmacies, supermarket pharmacies and GP’s and are free if you are:
- aged 65 years or over (including those becoming age 65 years by 31 March 2016)
- aged from 6 months to less than 65 years of age with a serious medical condition such as:
- chronic (long-term) respiratory disease, such as severe asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or bronchitis
- chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
- chronic kidney disease at stage three, four or five
- chronic liver disease
- chronic neurological disease, such as Parkinson’s disease or motor neurone disease, or learning disability
- splenic dysfunction
- a weakened immune system due to disease (such as HIV/AIDS) or treatment (such as cancer treatment)
- pregnant (including those women who become pregnant during the flu season)
- aged two, three, and four years (but not five years or older) on 31 August 2015 (ie date of birth on or after 1 September 2010 and on or before 31 August 2013) through your general practice
- in school years 1 and 2 age - you will be offered vaccination via school
- living in long-stay residential care homes or other long-stay care facilities
- in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or if you are the main carer of an older or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
- household contacts of individuals with weakened immune systems may be considered for vaccination by their general practice.
Where can I get the flu vaccine?
If you are eligible for a free NHS flu vaccine and are not a child receiving it in school, you can either go to your GP or for adults only you can choose to have the vaccine at one of the many participating pharmacies across West Yorkshire. To locate a pharmacy please visit: Community Pharmacy West Yorkshire|
Can I still have a vaccine if I am not eligible for a free NHS one?
You can still get the flu vaccine, but you will need to pay for it. Most pharmacies offer the flu vaccine, including those in supermarkets.
Why do carers and care staff need to be vaccinated against flu?
Vaccinating carers prevents them from catching flu. This is important because as well as becoming a source of infection to others, the health of the person cared for may suffer if their carer is unwell.
The vaccination is free to unpaid carers / those in receipt of the carers allowance. Health and social care staff should be vaccinated through their work.
Should I get antibiotics for flu?
No. You do not need antibiotics for flu symptoms. Flu is a virus and antibiotics do not work against viruses. Taking antibiotics can cause side effects like diarrhoea but will not cure or speed up your recovery from flu. If you are suffering from flu symptoms simply visit your pharmacy or ask someone to go for you to describe your symptoms. There are many effective medicines available over the counter to help with your symptoms while you recover.
How can I stay warm and safe this winter?
Winter is a time when people are more at risk of injury or illness. By thinking ahead you can reduce risk and be prepared should the cold weather hit suddenly. Read our ’Stay Winter Wise’ booklet now to prepare for winter weather over the coming months. You may be surprised by what you read:
Where can I find more information?
Find your nearest health service in the Social care and wellbeing hub
Follow our Director of Public Health on Twitter: @PaulPaulbutcher