Seasonal Flu, also known as Flu, is caused by the Influenza virus. It is a common infection that can easily spread to others when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks and droplets land in the mouth or nose or inhaled by people nearby.
It can also be transmitted if someone touches a surface or object such as a handle or switch, with the Flu virus on it and then touches their mouth, nose or eyes.
The symptoms of Flu are similar to a very bad cold, but it affects more than just the nose and throat and can make the person feel exhausted and too unwell to carry on as normal.
Symptoms can come on very quickly, and include:
- a high temperature
- aching body
- a sore throat
- loss of appetite
- diarrhoea or tummy pain
- feeling or being sick
Symptoms are similar for children but they may also experience ear pain and be less active. However, not everyone who is infected with Flu develops symptoms, but they are still able to spread the virus to others.
Everyone is at risk of getting Flu, those at higher risk of developing complications include:
- older adults (aged 65 years and over)
- residents of nursing homes
- children under 5, especially those under 2
- pregnant women
- people with certain serious health conditions (eg, asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis, heart disease and kidney disease) and
- those who are immunocompromised (weakened immune system)
How to treat Flu
A person with Flu is most contagious in the first 3 to 4 days after the illness begins. Symptoms can begin from 2 days after the virus has entered the body.
For most people, Flu will usually get better after around a week.
Symptoms can be relieved by:
- keeping warm
- drinking plenty of fluids
- taking regular pain relief such as paracetamol or ibuprofen
A GP will not usually prescribe antibiotics because Flu is a virus, and they will not relieve the symptoms or increase the recovery time.
Good hygiene is important to prevent the spread of the Flu virus - this includes:
- washing hands often using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub
- avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth
- regularly cleaning surfaces and objects that could become contaminated using an anti-bacterial cleaner
- using a disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing and disposing of the tissue immediately afterwards
- avoiding close contact with people who are unwell
- remaining away from others if you are unwell, until you are recovered
Getting vaccinated every year during the seasonal programme will help to avoid getting Flu. It is important to get vaccination annually, as the virus changes each year. The vaccination is inactive so it does not give you Flu.
During the 2022/23 Flu Programme, you are eligible for a free vaccination on the NHS if you:
- are a child aged 2 or 3
- are a primary school aged child in Reception to year 6
- are 65 years old or over (including those who will be 65 by 31 March 2023)
- are pregnant
- have certain health conditions
- are in long-stay residential care
- are a front-line health or social care worker
- are in receipt of carers allowance or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk
- are living with someone who is immunocompromised
From October 2022, people aged between 50 and 64 will also be able to get vaccinated.
For those who are not eligible to get vaccinate for free under the NHS, the vaccination can still be arranged for a charge of around £15.
Vaccination can usually be arranged through your own GP, a community pharmacy, or other clinical provider.
- Flu vaccine for adults - NHS
- Flu vaccine for children - NHS
- Notifications of infectious diseases (NOIDs)
Last updated 05 January 2023