Flu is an unpleasant virus that many of us will have experienced.

It is often confused with a cold, but flu symptoms are much worse. A cold can bring nothing more than a bout of the sniffles, whereas flu is likely to leave you feeling so poorly that you’re unable to get out of bed.

If you are generally healthy, you should start to feel better after a week or so. That said, flu can in some cases, lead to complications, particularly in older sufferers, so if your symptoms persist or worsen, the safest option is to speak to one of our GPs.

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Woman with the flu virus

What causes flu?

The viruses that cause flu are known to change regularly, which is what makes it so hard to avoid and explains why vaccinations occur every year.

Flu is an airborne virus, which means that it can be passed on by things like coughs and sneezes. Unfortunately, it’s highly contagious, so one flu victim failing to use a handkerchief when they cough can easily infect several other people around them.

You can catch the virus by coming into direct contact with someone who has it, or by touching anything that they have touched, coughed or sneezed around. Door handles, telephones and remote controls are just some of the things that could be carrying the flu virus if these items have recently been used by a flu sufferer.

Flu Symptoms

Understanding the difference between colds and flu is crucial to ensuring the most effective treatment. This is something our doctors will be able to explain to you during your consultation, so speak to them if you have any doubts.

The key aspect of flu is that the symptoms occur very quickly, so you can feel perfectly fine one day and too unwell to work the next. In addition to a runny or blocked nose and a cough, symptoms you might experience include tiredness, headaches, aching muscles and a high fever.

young girl with flu

Who is Most at Risk From Flu?

If you are generally healthy, your body will be able to recover from flu on its own.

However, there are some groups for whom flu can be more serious. If any of the below applies to you, you should speak to a GP as soon as possible:

  • Those over the age of 65
  • Those with existing medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease
  • Those who are currently being treated for a separate illness and whose immune system may be weaker as a result
  • Those who have previously suffered a serious medical problem such as a stroke
  • Pregnant women
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How to Treat Flu

Aside from bed rest and plenty of water, there are a few things you can do to treat flu and get back to normal as quickly as possible.

Painkillers such as paracetamol won’t cure your flu, but they will make the symptoms more manageable and, if you have a fever, will help bring your temperature down.

Antiviral medicines may be prescribed, but there remains some debate about whether these are appropriate for the at-risk groups mentioned above.

When it comes to flu, prevention really is the best cure. Using a handkerchief and washing your hands regularly can stop flu from spreading, while there is also a yearly vaccine available.

You can ask our doctors about all these things during your consultation and they will provide you with helpful next steps that will enable you to deal with your flu.

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Preventing flu


When it comes to flu, prevention is always the best course of action.

Since it's caused by a virus, the best step to take is ensuring you're maintaining a good level of hygiene.

Be sure to:
Wash your hands often
Clean surfaces that you frequently use
Avoid close contact with people displaying cold or flu-like symptoms.

If you're in an at-risk group, such as those with medical conditions that make them vulnerable to complications or the elderly, you'll be offered the flu vaccine as a matter of course.

However, it's also possible to purchase a vaccination from private services if you're not in these groups.

Similarly, antiviral medication like Tamiflu or Relenza can also be used as a preventative measure for those in at-risk groups.


Talk to a doctor about flu