As we get older our immune systems get weaker and we can be more prone to catching a cold. In England, the NHS offers a free annual flu jab for over 65’s because it can be a very serious illness for older people. Here is some information on how stay warm and well this winter!
What is flu?
Flu (influenza) is a respiratory illness which is very contagious. It is most prevalent in early spring and winter when the weather gets colder, flu is virtually non-existent in hotter more humid weather. Flu is not like the common cold, this type of virus is caused by a group of viruses which cause more severe and longer symptoms which start suddenly.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of flu are pretty much the same in all age groups which may include:
- Sore Throat
- High Temperature
- Runny or Stuffy nose
- General aches and pains
- Headache – this is very common
- Tiredness and fatigue – this can last 2/3 weeks
- Cough/Chest discomfort – this is common can become severe
- Exhaustion – this usually occurs around the start of having the flu
How we get the flu:
Flu is mainly spread via droplets that fly out when you cough and sneeze. These droplets can travel far and spread to other people. Touching surfaces that someone, who has the flu, has previously touched can also spread the virus. A virus like this can live on surfaces for 2 hours and longer!
Avoiding the flu:
Avoiding the flu and helping avoid transmission of germs can be as simple as:
- Washing your hands regularly with soap
- Clean surfaces such as telephones and door handles regularly
- Use tissue to cover your mouth and nose when sneezing to avoid spreading germs
- Keep your distance from people who are already ill or showing signs of having the flu
- You could carry hand sanitizer with you, as public transport and public areas is a place where the risk of catching germs is high.
How to treat the flu:
If you are unfortunate enough to catch the dreaded flu, here are a few ways in treating it:
- Keep warm
- Plenty of rest
- Drink plenty of water
- The most effective way is to get the annual flu vaccination (free annual flu jab for over 65’s with the NHS)
- Consult your doctor when you plan on taking over the counter medicine
The difference between the flu and a cold
Having a cold and having the flu are two different things. They can easily get mixed up, here are a few ways to differentiate the two:
- Runny Nose
- Lasts around a week
- Start with sore throat
- Slight fever is possible
Flu (more severe)
- Sore throat
- Muscle ache and soreness
The Seasonal Jab
The flu can be seriously dangerous for the elderly and the seasonal jab is the best option to help avoid it.
- It has be proven to be a good idea as it has reduced hospital admission by around 70% and death by around 85% for those who do not live in a nursing home.
- Reduces the risk of pneumonia by around 60%.
- Some studies show that when strains in the vaccine are a good match with the ones that are circulating, vaccinated individuals are 60% less likely to catch the flu than people who aren’t vaccinated.
This jab needs to be administered every year as there are different strains of flu that occur every year. The flu can begin in October and last until May the following year. The NHS recommends getting the jab around October or November as it takes about 2 weeks for the flu jab to start working. Even if you miss this time period, it is still advisable to get the jab as soon as you can.