The Flu is often regarded as a ‘common’ infection which is spread through coughing and sneezing. Many people mistake the symptoms of the common cold and the flu, however the Flu is generally more infectious, more severe and can last longer.
The name ‘flu’ is short for influenza, it doesn’t just occur in the winter months, it can happen all year round. However, it does tend to affect more people during November, December, January and February, this is sometimes why it gets called the ‘seasonal flu’.
The flu is caused by a different group of viruses than the common cold, it’s highly contiguous and usually lasts for around a week or two. Most people will be able to manage the symptoms and get better quickly, however depending on the nature of the infection, some may develop complications.
Symptoms of Flu
Usually the main symptoms of flu include:
• A headache
• General aches and pains
• Tiredness and weakness
• A temperature of 38C (100.4F) or above
• Coughing and Sneezing
• Difficulty Sleeping
• Loss of Appetite
• Sore Throat
• Nausea and Vomiting
• Diarrhoea or Abdominal Pain
As the flu and common cold have similar symptoms it can sometimes be hard to tell which infection you have. Usually the flu will come on quickly, it normally has aching muscles and a fever. In most cases it usually affects your daily activities. On the contrary a common cold will mainly affect the nose and throat and generally doesn’t stop a person from going to work.
How Long Does Flu last?
If you’ve caught the Flu, then most people usually start to feel ill within a couple of days of being infected. Normally the majority start feeling better, around a week or two after becoming ill. However, some people tend to feel ‘tired’ for a few weeks after the infection has cleared up.
If you’ve got a weakened immune system, are young or old then the virus can last longer, this means you will also be ‘infectious’ for longer too.
Normally most people will make a ‘full recovery’. However, if you’ve got a long-term health condition or elderly, then it’s a good idea to seek advice from your Doctor or NHS 111, if your infection is particularly ‘bad’ or not improving. The flu can sometimes develop into a more serious complication.
How to Avoid Spreading the Flu
The flu can easily be spread, it’s been stated that when somebody sneezes or coughs, ‘millions’ of tiny droplets are release. Apart from breathing in these droplets, you can also get the virus from touching surfaces, everyday objects and surroundings.
It’s important to remember the Flu can ‘live’ on hands and surfaces for over 24 hours!
Typically to avoid spreading the flu you should:
• Wash your hands regularly (with warm water and soap)
• Use tissues when coughing or sneezing
• Bin the tissue as soon as possible, don’t re-use it
As well as these tips, some people simply catch the flu every year. It can be a good idea to speak to your Doctor to see how you may prevent getting a flu infection. Some GP’s may recommend having the Flu Vaccination. This tends to be Free on the NHS for certain groups such as children and older members of the public.
How to Treat Yourself at Home
The general advice from GP’s is to:
• Rest at home until you feel better
• Keep Warm
• Drink lots of Water to avoid dehydration
• Take over-the counter painkillers if required. Please remember to read all the documentation with any medicine before taking.
If you feel like your flu injection is not getting better and is getting worse, or you’ve had it longer than a week, please call your Doctor’s practice or NHS 111 for more advice.
Some Doctor’s may request you make an appointment, however some practices will not want you to ‘come into the surgery’ if you’re highly infectious. This could mean a Doctor may come and see you at home. As every situation is different, please call your Doctor for more guidance.
• Have Difficulty Breathing
• Develop a ‘Sudden’ Chest Pain
• Start Coughing Blood
When to Visit the Doctor
In most cases the flu will gradually go away on its own, however this isn’t always the case. Sometimes it’s a good idea to visit the Doctor, this usually affects people who are:
• Over 65 Years Old
• Have a long-term condition – such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease or a neurological disease
• Have a weak immune system – this can be because of chemotherapy or HIV
• Have chest pain or shortness of breath
• Have difficulty breathing
• Coughing up blood
• The symptoms are getting worse
The Flu Vaccination
In most cases, the Flu vaccine is available for Free on the NHS for:
• Pregnant Women
• People over 65 Years Old
• Children and Adults with Weak Immune Systems
• Child and Adults with long-term health conditions
In most parts of the UK, there’s a free Flu Nasal Spray Vaccine available to children who are eligible as part of the NHS’s childhood vaccination programme.
Most Doctors recommend getting the flu vaccination in the autumn, usually between September and November.
Usually you should get the flu vaccine every year as the strain constantly changes. This should mean you remain ‘protected’. For more information on the vaccine please contact your local Doctor’s surgery.
The History of Flu
The Flu, also called influenza continues to be a highly infectious disease throughout the world. It not only affects humans, it may also be present in animals too such as horses, birds and pigs.
Typically, in one year around five million severe cases can be reported, of these around 250,000 to 500,000 people died. It not only affects developing nations, it can affect any country, both in the Northern and Southern hemisphere.
Usually, most ‘flu outbreaks’ occur during the winter months in the Northern parts of the world such as Europe. While near the equator outbreaks can occur throughout the year at any time.
To date there’s been several flu pandemics, in 1918 the Spanish Influenza outbreak resulted in around 50 million deaths. The Asian influenza outbreak in 1957 caused two million deaths and the Hong Kong outbreak caused one million in 1968.
Vaccination against the flu began on a large scale in the 1930s, typically a new ‘version’ of the vaccine is developed twice a year as the virus rapidly changes to new strains. Some people question the effeteness of the flu vaccine, however most healthcare workers agree that it provides ‘modest’ to ‘high’ protection against influenza in most cases.
What many people don’t realise is that the conventional injected and nasal spray flu vaccination is generally ‘grown’ by manufacturers in fertilised chicken eggs. After recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO) for which strains to develop, the eggs and the flu are inoculated separately. These are then ‘harvested’ and combined to make the vaccine. In 2007, around 820 million vaccine doses were produced.