How to spot, treat and prevent the flu

With winter comes colder weather, darker nights and that inevitable virus that’s ‘doing the rounds’ but how do you know if it’s flu? Justin Jones, Head of Physiology & Clinical Development at Nuffield Health looks at how to recognise, treat and prevent the symptoms of flu.

Flu, or to give it it’s full name, influenza – isn’t the same as the common cold. In fact, it’s worse. It’s caused by a different group of viruses and the symptoms tend to come on a lot stronger and quicker.

Even if you do your best to avoid germs, you’re still susceptible. When someone infected with the flu sneezes, coughs or blows their nose, they release tiny droplets of the virus into the air. Even if you don’t catch it that way, viruses can live on objects for up to two days.

But there are a few ways you can protect yourself from the flu – read on to find out how.

1. Who’s most at risk from catching the flu?

You’re more at risk if you’re over the age of 65, pregnant, have a long-term medical condition such as heart or lung disease, or have a weakened immune system due to treatment, medication or a medical condition. If so, take extra care to avoid germs and look out for the below signs and symptoms.

2. What are the symptoms of flu?

There are a few symptoms to watch out for and you may have a combination of the following:

  • Sudden fever
  • Aches
  • Exhaustion
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach pains
  • Nausea/being sick

3. How can I treat the flu?

As with a cold, there’s no simple way to get rid of the flu once you’ve got it. Your energy and resistance are reduced, so don’t be hard on yourself.

Instead of carrying on with your routine, the best thing to do is rest, sleep and keep warm. Take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower your temperature and ease aches and pains and top up your fluids by drinking plenty of water.

4. How can I prevent the flu?

Having a healthy, balanced diet that’s vitamin rich will give you a fighting chance of avoiding the flu. Eating fruit and vegetables and taking supplements such as vitamin C and zinc can help.

Also, try to avoid people who are ill (sometimes easier said than done!), wash your hands properly and get plenty of sleep.

5. Get a flu jab – it may be free

You should also consider getting the flu jab. It’s a quick and easy injection, which vaccinates your body against the influenza virus. And if you’re in a high-risk group, such as over 65 or pregnant, you may be able to get it for free.

By having a flu vaccination, not only are you projecting yourself, but also others who may be in the at-risk group too. Contact your nearest Nuffield Health centre to book an appointment here.

Key takeaway

To avoid getting the flu, make sure you eat well, wash your hands well, and be extra careful if you’re more at risk. Look out for the symptoms, and if you do catch it, take care of yourself, rest and recover.

Last updated Wednesday 13 November 2019

First published on Wednesday 13 November 2019