Flu season is here and it is stronger than it has been since before the Covid Pandemic. As we took precautions during the pandemic to limit contact, wash our hands more and spent generally less time around each other, the cases of flu dropped in recent years. But as the initial threat of the pandemic leaves us and we are spending more time around each other again in these colder months, it has given a chance for the flu to spread much more easily.
So, to help you understand and prepare we have prepared an article detailing all you need to know about the flu.
The Flu, what is it?
The Flu is a virus that affects the respiratory tract. The flu is not the common cold, though people can often confuse the flu as being a strong case of the common cold. In fact, the Flu is its own strain of virus, that has a much stronger effect than any common cold ever will.
The Flu is seasonal as it prefers the colder climate of winter months to spread and propagate itself. As we spend more time out in the cold we lower our body’s defences slightly, as energy is put into maintaining our temperature our immune systems have fewer resources to protect us. We spend more time around each other and the general public as we are busy shopping for Christmas, and in and amongst our hustle and bustle in the cold and wet, the Flu virus is happily transmitting itself from person to person.
As we had, effectively, two years away from the flu virus, our national immunity has wavered slightly. Generally, the flu is a stay-at-home and rest up until you get better virus, and the more people who have it, the greater the population who have immunity to it, so it prevents the spread of the flu. Those who are vulnerable still require vaccination, but generally, the flu is a manageable viral infection that we learn to live with year after year.
Having not been exposed for a few years, and with the flu’s ability to mutate and change into slightly varied strains, means that the flu will be spreading faster and quicker this year than it has done in previous years, meaning we should all be more cautious as we go about our daily lives in the winter months.
How do I know if I have the flu?
If you have the flu, you’ll know about it.
The simplest way to know if you have the flu, or just a cold is this:
A cold will affect your nose and throat only, you will feel stuffy, maybe have a sore throat, and your nose will run a lot. It will come on slowly, leave slowly, and be a general nuisance for several days.
The flu comes on very quickly and affects more than just the nose and throat, but the respiratory tract too. As a strong viral infection, your body will produce a fever to get rid of it, so your temperature will rise rapidly and you won’t be able to feel for yourself whether you are hot or cold and will feel far too exhausted to do anything at all.
- Sudden high temperature
- Aching muscles/body
- Exhaustion and tiredness
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
- Difficulty sleeping
- Little to no appetite
- Diarrhoea and stomach pain
- Feeling sick and being sick
Who is at risk:
As the flu is a viral infection that affects the entire body, it can be a little more dangerous than it first appears, though this danger often affects people who are already vulnerable. In general, the three main groups of people at risk from the flu are:
- People over 65
- Adults with chronic health conditions
- Pregnant women
This is due to a generally compromised immune system and weaker bodies as people age, meaning the effects of your body trying to rid you of the flu can be more severe and have a greater toll on the body.
Those with chronic health conditions such as asthma, chronic kidney disease, cancer etc, already have compromised immune systems and so the flu can hit them harder and knock out more of their vital systems as it does so. And during pregnancy a woman’s immune system changes naturally, so do the heart and lungs and so they become more susceptible to dangerous complications arising from the Flu.
Managing the Flu
If you are a healthy adult and you get the flu, the chances are you will be simply bedridden for several days until your body naturally deals with the virus itself.
If you are at home do your best to rest, stay hydrated, keep warm, and take paracetamol or ibuprofen if the pain or temperature is too much for you to handle.
Flu is spread most easily within the first 5 days of infection, and the germs spread through coughs and sneezes can live on surfaces for up to 24 hours. As a result, it is essential to stay at home until 24 hours after the fever is gone. Once the fever has passed, the body has dealt with the majority of the infection and is coming back to normal functioning. But you are still potentially infectious during this stage. To prevent spreading the flu to potentially vulnerable people, a week off work is recommended, and wait 24 hours until after the fever breaks.
So, if you’re a healthy adult, all being well, a bit of bed rest for a week will be enough to clear the infection and make you well enough to go back to work.
But what if symptoms are more serious, should you go see a GP?
Under some circumstances, the answer is yes.
- Difficulty Breathing and/or Chest Pain: Coughing is normal, so is a bit of mucus being produced, but wheezing, chest pain or shortness of breath are all indications of a deeper infection such as pneumonia or bronchitis and will need to be seen to by a doctor.
- A Persistent Fever: If your fever is particularly high or does not break after a few days there could be other complications taking place and you should see a doctor
- Severe vomiting or diarrhoea: Vomiting and diarrhoea can be normal for the flu, but if it is more than once or twice a day and excessive, it could become dangerous as you can become quickly dehydrated.
- Symptoms last more than 7 days: If your symptoms persist for more than seven days it can indicate other problems and that your body is struggling to cope with the virus and so it may be time to see a doctor
Can we prevent the Flu?
So, whilst we can’t cure the flu when we have it, we can prevent ourselves from catching strong cases of the flu with a Flu Vaccine.
Flu vaccines have been in use for many years now and have been shown in their efficacy for just as long. Vaccines can’t stop us from getting a disease, but they teach our bodies how to defeat the disease before it ever really takes a hold of us. So, by ensuring you get your flu vaccine you can be safe knowing that if you do come into contact with the flu virus, its effect on you will be minimized, if not completely nonexistent.
Flu Vaccines are available to everyone over 50 and those with chronic health conditions that place them at risk of the flu.
Private GP Services stocks several Flu vaccines for those who don’t qualify for free vaccines under the NHS, or for those who want their vaccines administered by private healthcare professionals.
Our services are discrete and professional and open to everyone, if you would like to know more or book into today, call us on 0330 053 3745 today and book your flu vaccination as soon as possible.