Flu, or influenza, is a contagious illness that affects the respiratory system. It usually infects the nose and throat, and sometimes the lungs. While some people will only experience mild forms of the illness, others will be faced with more severe symptoms and, in some cases, it can even lead to death.
Similar to colds, flu becomes more widespread in the winter months.
This is partly due to people spending more time indoors, allowing it to spread, but also the fact that cold air can lower resistance.
Like COVID-19, the best protection against flu is the vaccination – which is available every year.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains: “The single best way to reduce the risk of seasonal flu and its potentially serious complications is to get vaccinated each year, but good health habits like avoiding people who are sick, covering your cough and washing your hands often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like flu.
“There also are flu antiviral drugs that can be used to treat and prevent flu.”
However, as it says, there are simple changes you can make to lower your risk of catching flu regardless of whether you are vaccinated or not.
The CDC lists these as:
- Avoiding close contact
- Covering your mouth and nose
- Cleaning your hands
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Sticking to other good health habits.
Avoid close contact
“Avoid close contact with people who are sick,” the CDC says.
“When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.”
Cover your mouth and nose
The CDC says: “Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
“It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
“Flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk.”
Clean your hands.
“Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs,” it says.
“If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.”
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
The CDC comments: “Germs can be spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.”
Practise other good health habits
“Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill,” it concludes.
“Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.”
The health body also advises staying home when you are sick to prevent spreading flu to other people.
Flu symptoms can appear quickly, and include:
- A sudden high temperature
- An aching body
- Feeling tired or exhausted
- A dry cough
- A sore throat
- A headache
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Diarrhoea or tummy pain
- Feeling sick and being sick.