Every year, the flu infects thousands of people throughout the UK. During the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, flu rates dropped substantially due to proactive measures (such as masking and sanitising). However, with lockdowns over, COVID vaccination rates high, and life once again active, it is likely that we will see higher flu rates increase once again.
In order to protect yourself and your loved ones, we have detailed some preventative measures that you can begin taking as early as September to get ready for flu season which lasts from early autumn to mid-winter (with peaks occurring from December through to February).
What Is Flu, and What Are Its Symptoms?
The flu, or influenza, is a respiratory virus that targets your lungs and sinuses. The virus that causes flu changes and mutates every year which means that you can catch it repeatedly.
The flu usually hits suddenly, with more severe symptoms and a greater risk of severe illness than the common cold. The flu is usually resolves itself, but it can lead to high fever, pneumonia, and respiratory distress.
- A sudden onset of headache, nausea, shivering, and stomach pain
- A dry cough and runny nose
- Muscle aches throughout the body
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Upset stomach and diarrhoea
As the flu is a virus, taking antibiotics is ineffective in treating it; instead, we recommend rest, drinking plenty of fluids, and having a chat with one of our pharmacists (or trained healthcare assistants) who can recommend suitable over-the-counter remedies to help manage your symptoms.
If symptoms are severe (e.g., a prolonged fever), or the individual falls into a high-risk group (e.g., the very young or elderly) then medical care should be sought.
Now, we can examine our top recommendations for avoiding the flu this winter.
Avoid Unnecessary Large Crowds
The flu easily spreads in crowded areas, much like COVID-19. The flu is primarily spread through airborne particles that leave people’s mouths when they speak or breathe. Being in close proximity with others puts you at a higher risk of inhaling these particles. So, avoiding crowded shopping centres, cafes, restaurants, and other gatherings is a good way to lower your risk of illness.
When you do have to enter crowded areas, we advise wearing a face mask as a way of limiting inhalation of these viral particles.
Strengthen the Immune System
While it would be excellent to have a one-size-fits-all immune booster, healthy immunity stems from a healthy lifestyle. You can strengthen your immune system through a healthy diet, and supplements such as multivitamins. Exercising regularly (even just 30 minutes a day), eating well, and getting enough sleep are simple things that make a big difference to your ability to fight off illness.
If you have underlying health conditions, ensure that you take your medicines as prescribed, follow advice from healthcare professionals on how to manage your conditions and on flu prevention measures.
Get the Flu Jab
The flu jab is an annual vaccination that reduces your risk of illness by 40% to 60%. That may not seem like a lot, but the reality is that having the jab makes a sizable difference in how well your body fights off the flu if you do become infected.
Someone without the flu vaccine is more likely to experience complications, such as lung infections.
You can visit your local pharmacy for easy access to a flu jab which only takes a matter of minutes and protects you all winter long.
People with certain long-term health conditions are eligible for free flu vaccination via the NHS:
· Respiratory conditions, such as asthma (needing a steroid inhaler or tablets), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) including emphysema and bronchitis
· Heart conditions, such as coronary heart disease or heart failure
· Being very overweight (BMI or 40 or above)
· Chronic kidney disease
· Liver disease, such as hepatitis
· Some neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy
· Learning disabilities
· Problems with your spleen, e.g., sickle cell disease or a splenectomy
· Conditions that affect your immune system e.g., HIV and AIDS, or taking medicines such as steroids or chemotherapy.
Frontline health and social care workers, carers and anyone who is pregnant are also eligible for a free vaccination.
Cleanliness: Hands and Surfaces
The flu can live on contaminated surfaces for up to 48 hours. Touching these surfaces and then touching your face can lead to infection.
The best way to avoid accidental exposure through contaminated surfaces is to wash and disinfect regularly.
Proper hand washing instructions:
- Use your elbow to turn on the tap
- Apply soap and lather generously for at least 20 seconds
- Rinse in warm water completely
You may use disinfectant products (e.g., antibacterial wipes) to clean down high-touch surfaces, such as light switches, doorknobs, keyboards, computer mice, remote controllers, cabinet handles, toilet flushers, and faucets.
In public spaces, use paper towels or wipes to open doors and activate faucets and lights.
Ventilation plays a key role in disinfection. Make sure that you are in a space that is well-ventilated, even if it means putting on a cosy jumper and cracking the window a bit to circulate air.
We also advise keeping some hand sanitiser available, so you can regularly disinfect your hands throughout the day. If you find this dries your skin, some lotion or moisturiser can help.
Reach Out to Us for Your Flu Care Needs
We are always available to answer any questions you have about the flu vaccine and prevention. Please follow us on social media for more information about health and wellness. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Stay safe and take care!