Influenza (Flu)

Influenza

Summary

  • Flu is a viral infection of the respiratory tract.
  • Flu symptoms are more severe than those of a cold and tend to last longer.
  • Antibiotics do not treat viral infections, and will not help you recover from the flu.
  • Having an annual flu vaccination is the best way to reduce your chances of getting ill with the flu.

Flu is not the same as the common cold. It is caused by completely different viruses (the influenza viruses A and B). The flu tends to make your whole body ache, whereas colds usually affect only your nose and throat.

Flu is most common from late autumn to early spring but you can catch flu at any time of the year.

Flu can be prevented by vaccination as well as good hygiene practices, such as regularly washing your hands, and sneezing or coughing into a tissue.

What are the symptoms of flu?

  • Fever (ie, a temperature of 38.5 °C or higher), and chills (feeling cold or shivering)
  • Headache
  • Runny or blocked nose, and sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Dry or chesty cough
  • Tiredness, aching muscles and joint or limb pain
  • Loss of appetite, and upset stomach or diarrhoea.

[insert graphic of sick person with flu symptoms around them -- to come from Millie.

caption: Flu symptoms are more severe and tend to last longer than those of a cold]

How long will my flu symptoms last?

Your flu symptoms will usually be at their worst after 2–3 days and will generally last for 5–8 days. However, some of the symptoms of flu (eg, cough and tiredness) can last for as long as 2–3 weeks.

Most people who are generally healthy won’t need to see their doctor. Your immune system will fight your infection and your symptoms will usually clear up on their own.

You should try to rest, maintain a good fluid intake, and manage your symptoms. This will help you recover and prevent dehydration.

Read about about medicines and treatments for relieving the symptoms of the flu.

See your doctor if your symptoms are not getting better or if they become worse

Symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe vomiting or fever with a rash can be emergency warning signs.

While anyone can get sick with the flu, some people are more likely to develop complications (such as pneumonia) and should visit their doctor when they become ill.

People at risk of serious illness and complications

The flu (influenza) can be a serious disease in some people, and its complications (eg, pneumonia) can be life-threatening.

People who are at risk of catching the flu or developing complications from the flu should receive a yearly flu vaccine. The vaccine is slightly different each year to target the active flu viruses.

See Vaccination for the flu for information on who should receive the flu vaccine.

Find out more

Related information - flu

Audience:
       

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