Flu is a highly infectious and very common viral illness that is spread by coughs and sneezes. It is not the same as the common cold. Flu is caused by a different group of viruses and symptoms tend to be more severe and last longer. You can catch flu all year round, but it is especially common in winter, which is why it is also known as ‘seasonal flu’.
What are the symptoms and how long will it last?
Flu causes a sudden high temperature, headache and general aches and pains, tiredness and a sore throat. You can also lose your appetite, feel nauseous and have a cough. If you have flu you generally start to feel ill within a few days of being infected. Symptoms peak after two to three days and you should begin to feel much better after a week or so, although you may feel tired for much longer.
Preventing the spread of flu
The flu virus is spread in the small droplets of fluid coughed or sneezed into the air by an infected person and also through touch. For example, if you have flu and touch common hard surfaces such as door handles with unwashed hands then other people who touch the surface after can pick up the infection. To prevent this from happening always wash your hands with soap and water, use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and put used tissues in a bin as soon as possible.
The flu jab A flu vaccine is available free on the NHS if you:
- Are pregnant
- 65 or older
- Have a serious medical condition
- Are a healthcare worker or carer
- Live in a residential or nursing home.
The best way to protect yourselves and others from flu is to get vaccinated. Speak to your GP if you fall in to one of the categories above.
The flu jab in pregnancy
If you are pregnant it is recommended that you have the flu vaccine to protect you and your baby. All pregnant women are advised to have the vaccine, whatever stage of pregnancy they're at.
For more information on the flu jab in pregnancy visit the NHS choices website:
Public Health England have issued guidance for winter 2016/17 on flu vaccination and who should have it. Download the pdf below.