We have all noticed the sudden drop in temperature over the past couple of weeks as the season changes and winter becomes more established. Coughs and colds are more prevalent as is the flu virus. Here, we take a look at flu symptoms and compare them with other illnesses including coronavirus.
What is influenza (flu)?
A respiratory illness is caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and sometimes lungs. The best way to prevent flu is by getting the flu vaccine and we will look further into this later.
It is believed that the flu virus is spread by small droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk near other people who then breathe in the droplets. Someone could also pick up flu by touching surfaces where the flu virus has landed and then transferring it to (touching) their nose, mouth or eyes, although this is less often the cause.
To reduce the risk of spreading flu, use tissues when you cough or sneeze and dispose of them in the bin as quickly as possible, wash your hands with warm water and soap.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of flu and the common cold are similar, although the flu tends to be more severe and can include:
- a sudden high temperature of 38C or above
- an aching body
- feeling tired or exhausted
- a dry cough
- a sore throat
- a headache
- difficulty sleeping
- loss of appetite
- diarrhoea or tummy pain
- feeling sick and being sick
Is it coronavirus?
If you have a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss of or change in your sense of taste or smell, it could be coronavirus (Covid-19). In this instance:
- a high temperature means that you feel hot to touch
- a new, continuous cough - if you notice that you're coughing a lot within an hour or if you usually have a cough, the episodes are more frequent or worse than normal
- a loss of or change in your taste and/or smell - over a short time you have realised that your taste/sense of smell is different or you can't notice any tastes/smells
With these symptoms, it's important to get a PCR test to check if you have Covid-19 and self-isolate (stay home without visitors) until you get your result.
How to treat flu
It's best to stay at home and get plenty of rest and sleep if you think you have flu. If you're able to take over the counter medication such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, they will help to lower your temperature and relieve aches and pains. It's extremely important to stay well hydrated so drink plenty of water. Some people take flu remedies if recommended by their doctor/pharmacist, however, these can also contain paracetamol or ibuprofen so be careful not to exceed the recommended dose.
If you need further advice, call 111.
The best way to reduce the risk of catching the flu, or its effects if you do catch it, is to get the flu vaccine. If you're not sure whether you're able to have the vaccine, talk to your doctor or a pharmacist who will be able to offer advice.
Contrary to what some believe, the flu vaccine does not contain the active flu virus, so it cannot give you the flu. It is a safe and effective vaccine and is best received in autumn before the flu virus starts to spread, but you can get the vaccine later.
Sources and further information:
Better Care Together: https://www.bettercareleicester.nhs.uk/better-care-together-home/help-us-help-you/winter-flu/