Flu season is now upon us. With the colder weather now kicking in, it’s time to put on some extra layers and keep ourselves nice and toasty, and with colder weather comes the higher risk of catching the flu. It has been shown that certain groups, such as children and those over 65, and people with certain conditions, are more at risk of now only catching the flu, but also of experiencing the serious effects and complications caused by the flu, compared to more healthy adults.
For example, although the flu season can vary in severity year-to-year, it is people over the age of 65 who consistently take the greatest brunt of the burden through higher seasonal flu-related deaths and hospitalisations compared to other groups
There are actions you can take to reduce your risks of catching the flu, and things you can do if you do become sick, to help you get through the flu season.
Actions you can take
Following these actions can help you reduce your risks of catching the flu:
Flu jab – although the flu job isn’t 100% effective, it’s the simplest and most effective method of flu prevention for everyone, especially those over the age of 65. If you are over the age of 65, you can get a free flu jab from your GP, because you are at an increased risk of developing a more serious illness if you catch the flu, so it’s rather a matter of scheduling an appointment to get yours.
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water – yours hand come into contact the environment, surroundings and germs more than any other part of your body. They also have contact with many passageways into your body, including your eyes, nose, mouth and ears. Because the flu virus can live on hard surfaces for up to eight hours, touching surfaces in your surroundings puts you at risk of picking up the flu.
To minimise the risk of the flu and other contagious infections, it is vital that you wash your hands thoroughly several times a day, especially after coming into contact with questionable surfaces and using the restroom.
Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose – washing your hands is your primary defence against the flu, but it’s not always possible to keep your hands clean every minute of the day, and since our bodies most easily absorb contagions through the liquids in our eyes, mouth and nose, it’s also important to avoid touching these areas.
Avoid crowds during flu season – it’s wise to avoid unnecessary crowds and excessive travel, especially buses, trains and shops, where there is close proximity to other people with limited ventilation.
Sometimes, it’s you can’t avoid crowded places during flu season, so in these occasions, carry hand sanitiser and disinfection wipes, avoid excessive contact with your mouth, nose and ears, and distance yourself from sneezing neighbours.
What to do if you become sick
Although these is no cure for the flu, there are steps you can take to reduce your discomfort and feel better:
Get extra rest – being sick is physically and emotionally exhausting, so getting plenty of rest is important for combating any illness.
Drink plenty of fluids – a high fever causes the body to sweat and lose vital fluids, which can quickly lead to dehydration, so it is important to drink plenty of liquids to replace these lost fluids. This will also help ease an irritated throat and flush out mucus and toxins.
Over-the-counter medicines – to help relieve body aches and headaches, you can take over-the-counter (OTC) medications, but always make sure these are compatible with any medications or health conditions you may have. Cough drops and cough medicines can also help ease a sore throat and calm any coughing, as well as OTC decongestants to help with chest and nasal congestion.
Avoid spreading the flu – do your best to protect others while you’re sick. You may be contagious up to five or more days after symptoms first appear, so it’s best to avoid community, school and work settings while you’re experiencing symptoms. Other steps you can take to avoid spread the flu are to:
- Always cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough
- Throw used tissues away immediately
- Wash your hands often, especially after you sneeze, cough, or touch your eyes, nose, or mouth
- Keep your distance from others — don’t kiss, hug, or stand so close to someone that saliva might get on them when you talk
When to seek medical help
There may come a point where your flu symptoms have not subsided within a week or two, appear to get worse, or have even disappeared and then returned with worsened symptoms. These may be signs of flu-related complications and they may be life threatening, so don’t take any chances and contact your doctor.
Localised, reliable home care
At Assured Quality Care, we have a local, community based focus and specialise in the delivery of care within the South Leeds, Morley, Dewsbury, Batley and Wakefield areas. We have a proven, reliable, fexible and high-quality care service delivered through our trained local care team.
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If you would like a chat, or more information about how we help, you can contact us to discuss your requirements, or arrange a free care assessment, at a time that suits you on 01138 300926.
You can read more about the flu, its symptoms, treatment and prevention at NHS Choices.