The flu is a seasonal illness that will affect almost everyone in the world at some point. In most cases, the flu doesn’t require intervention or hospitalisation.
For those in high risk groups, catching the flu can be much more serious. High risk groups include pregnant women, people aged over 65 and people with long term health conditions or ongoing treatment that diminishes natural immune systems.
When does flu season start and end in the UK?
The start of flu season in the UK typically falls around November and December. This season continues until March, but can be longer or shorter. The flu season has become more unpredictable since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, meaning its important to keep up to date with your flu vaccine.
How long does the flu season last?
The flu season length can vary but typically lasts between 4 and 8 months in its entirety. Outbreaks have been known to occur as late as May and can begin as early as October. Flu may be more prevalent in the colder months, but it is contractible any time of the year.
Why is flu seasonal?
Although cold temperature is a contributing factor, studies have shown that the lack of sunlight and the change in lifestyle during the winter months also are a factor in the spread. With people spending more time indoors they are more likely to come into contact with an infected person, with little ventilation. The shorter days mean people experience a vitamin D and melatonin deficiency, compromising immune systems. Finally, the last factor may be that the flu virus can survive in colder and drier climates.
What are the symptoms of flu?
Flu symptoms can develop quickly, and will often get better on their own, however for those in the high risk categories, these can quickly become serious if left untreated.
Flu symptoms can include the following:
- High temperature which comes on suddenly
- Aches and pains
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Digestive problems
For children, the symptoms are as above, but may also include the following: ear ache, sinus congestion and lack of activity.
What is the difference between flu or cold?
Cold and flu symptoms can be very similar, however, flu does tend to be more serious and symptoms become more severe. Flu appears quickly, often within a few hours of contracting it, whereas a cold will gradually appear.
Flu affects your whole body, with symptoms including those above. A cold will mainly be confined to your head, including your sinuses, nose and throat. Flu will make you feel exhausted and prevent you from carrying out usual activities. Most people will feel unwell with a cold, but can continue to work and carry out their everyday tasks.
COVID-19 & Seasonal Flu
There are a number of symptoms which are shared by COVID-19 and flu. It can be hard to diagnose whether you have flu or covid and will need to be determined by a lateral flow test. IT is also possible to have flu and COVID at the same time.
Both COVID-19 and the seasonal flu can cause complications, which include:
- Inflammation of heart or brain
- Heart attacks
- Organ failure
- Respiratory distress
The majority of people will only suffer mild symptoms with both flu and COVID, however, those who are high risk may need to seek further medical attention.
What is the difference between COVID-19 and the flu?
Although many symptoms may seem similar, there are different causes, complications and treatments associated with each of these diseases. COVID-19 and flu both spread differently, have different levels of severity and are prevented by different types of vaccinations.
Is the flu jab the same as the COVID-19 vaccination?
No, but studies have shown that it is safe to have both the flu jab and the COVID-19 vaccination. For infants, they will often receive a set of vaccinations in one visit, and similarly adults can receive several vaccinations at once, which can help with time pressures from schedules.
How can I tell if I have flu or COVID-19?
Typically, there is no readily available test for flu, however, SureScreen Diagnostics have recently developed a dual test which will help to detect both flu and COVID-19. Initially designed to be supplied to hospitals and care homes, this test is already available overseas and is now being rolled out in the UK.
Currently, you can test for COVID-19 with a lateral flow test which can be obtained from a pharmacist. Testing for COVID can help you determine if your symptoms are from flu or COVID and then determine the best way to proceed.
What should I do if I think I have the flu?
If you have the flu, there are a number of actions you can take to aid in the speed of your recovery. When you have flu, it’s important to:
- Rest plenty and sleep
- Stay warm, avoiding prolonged periods of time in the cold
- Take paracetamol and/or ibuprofen to help reduce aches, paints and reduce your temperature
- Stay hydrated drinking plenty of water
A pharmacist can also help with advice for remedies. You may wish to ring them ahead of time to obtain advice, before going in person, or alternatively use a delivery service or ask a relative or friend to collect any medication you need.
It’s also important to try and reduce the spread of flu, some precautions you can take include:
- Reduce contact with others to prevent the spread, particularly those who are high risk
- Use hand wash and sanitiser regularly
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing
- Get rid of used tissue
How can I protect myself against the flu?
There is no way to fully prevent being infected with the flu virus, however, there are a number of preventative measures you can take.
A flu jab is the most effective protection against flu and the serious complications that can arise as a result. A flu jab is important for pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems. It’s important for children, elderly people, chronically-ill individuals and healthcare workers to receive their flu vaccine.
Washing your hands regularly, before you eat and after using the restroom can a;ll reduce the spread of the flu virus. It’s also beneficial to keep a hand sanitizer with you to regularly disinfect your hands after touching door handles or using public transport.
Germs can spread through touch, meaning that reducing the amount you touch your eyes, nose and mouth with your hands can reduce the likelihood of germs entering your body.
You may also choose to wear a disposable or reusable mask over your nose and mouth, this can reduce the spread of viruses through coughs, sneezes and droplets in breath.
For those who can, staying home can reduce the risk of spreading flu. If you have a chronic medical condition including heart disease, HIV or cancer, it may be advised that you shield. Isolating, even if you do not have a chronic condition, can protect others who may be more vulnerable from contracting the disease.
About the flu jab
The flu vaccination or ‘flu jab’ is a safe and effective way to protect yourself against the seasonal flu.
Who can get the flu jab?
Anyone can get the flu jab, although those who fall into the below categories are advised to get it as a priority:
- People aged 50 and over
- People with health conditions or who are immune-compromised
- People who are pregnant
- People in long-stay residential care
- People who care carers for elderly or disable people
- People living with those who are immune-compromised
When should I get the flu jab?
It is recommended that people who are in the most at risk groups, get theri flu vaccine every year. The most effective time to get vaccinated is before flu season begins, it is best to try to book in your jab by mid-October. It takes two weeks to develop enough antibodies from the flu vaccine to protect you against the flu. This means getting the vaccine as early as possible is a good idea, as it can take up to two months to generate the most antibodies.
How long does the flu jab last?
Your flu vaccine will protect you for the year, however it’s important to get your booster each year as the flu mutates annually.
How does the flu jab work?
The flu vaccine does not contain the live virus and cannot give you flu. You may experience some mild symptoms in the 24 hours after the jab, however, these are rarely serious and will go away on their own. The flu vaccine contains harmless parts of the flu strains. When these are introduced to the body, your immune system reacts and makes cells and special proteins called antibodies. These antibodies then provide you with protection against the flu.
Are there side effects to the flu jab?
Flu vaccines are safe and are given by administering a vaccine to the muscle of the upper arm. Side effects are usually mild and only last for a day or so. These can include:
- A slightly elevated temperature
- Muscle aches and pains
- Sore arm where the vaccine was administered
You can take a painkiller to help with any residual pain and moving your arm to keep the muscle loose can also help.
Private GP Services Flu Jabs
We stock the following flu vaccines:
- Basic flu vaccine – for children under 18 and adults QIVe
- Super flu vaccine Supemtek for over 18s, whilst stocks last QIVr. (Egg free)
- Please note: We do not stock the inhaler Fluenz, offered through schools to under 11 year olds or egg free vaccines
Our flu vaccines are priced at £35 per dose. We are offering the Supemtek at this price for this year only.
Please call us on 0330 053 3745 to book in as early as possible