Beat the winter flu

Seasonal flu (also known as influenza) is a highly infectious illness caused by a flu virus. It infects your lungs and upper airways, causing a sudden high temperature and general aches and pains.

You could also lose your appetite, feel nauseous and have a dry cough. You may need to stay in bed until your symptoms get better. This can take up to a week.

You can download the flu leaflets in different languages -- Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali, Tamil and Gujrati by clicking on Documents in the left hand column.

The flu virus is spread in the small droplets of saliva coughed or sneezed into the air by an infected person. If you breathe in these droplets, you may become infected.

Flu can also spread if someone with the virus touches common surfaces such as door handles with unwashed hands.

Typically several different strains of flu virus circulate at the same time. In 2010-11 one of the season's strains is H1N1, responsible for swine flu.

The infectious period

Symptoms develop one to four days (two days on average) after being infected.

People with flu are usually infectious (can spread the virus) a day before symptoms start, and remain infectious for five or six days. Children and people with weaker immune systems (such as cancer patients) may remain infectious for slightly longer.

Where to get treatment

If you are fit and healthy, and have no complications of flu, your symptoms may get better without antiviral treatment.

Patients in the ‘at risk group’ and others with severe flu should contact their pharmacist and/or GP as they may be prescribed antivirals to take.

All patients with flu should have plenty of rest and take paracetamol-based medication to lower temperature and relieve symptoms.

Patients should drink plenty of fluids during the illness and while recovering.

Antibiotics are not prescribed for flu as they have no effect on viruses but may be prescribed in those with complications.

How to prevent flu
  • Ensure you wash your hands regularly with soap and water regularly
  • Clean surfaces regularly to get rid of germs
  • Use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
  • Put used tissues in a bin as soon as possible
  • Avoid social contact where possible if you are unwell
  • Immunisation: Immunisation against Influenza viruses protects against flu. All patients in the at risk group category who are over six months should be vaccinated every year against flu.

If you have severe flu-like symptoms then we recommend you:

  • telephone your local pharmacist for advice
  • telephone your GP for advice (an out of hours telephone number will be provided when the surgery is closed)
  • local people not registered with a GP can phone Edridge Road Community Health Centre for advice. Telephone 020 3040 0800 from 8am to 8pm
  • telephone NHS Direct for advice on 0845 46 47.

Keep away from GP surgeries or other public places while cough and sneezing persists, to limit the spread of flu.

Please do not call an ambulance or come to Accident and Emergency (A&E) except in a life-threatening emergency.

Elderly people or those with certain medical conditions may develop a complication such as a chest infection. This can lead to serious illness and can be life-threatening so you may need to be referred to hospital.

If you have serious problems breathing, are experiencing chest pain or any other life-threatening condition dial 999, tell the operator it is a medical emergency and a response vehicle will be sent to where you are.

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