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How is the flu treated?

Your immune system will usually tackle viral infections such as the flu, so most people will just need to let it run its course.

Antibiotics will not work against the flu, as it is a viral infection. Antibiotics only work against bacterial infections.

If you are fit and healthy then you will usually just need to rest at home until you recover, which usually takes around a week. There are some self-care measures you can try whilst you’re getting better, which includes:

  • Staying at home and getting plenty of rest and sleep
  • Drinking lots of fluid to prevent dehydration
  • Keeping yourself warm
  • Taking over-the-counter painkillers to help with the symptoms
  • Treating your cough with over-the-counter medication

You should see a doctor if you have symptoms that do not get better after a week or you are at risk of complications due to the flu.

See a GP if you’re pregnant, over the age of 65, if you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes, heart disease or asthma or a weakened immune system.

If you’re worried about your child, or if they have severe symptoms, you should speak to a GP for more advice.

Antiviral medication to treat the flu

In some cases, such as if you’re more at risk of complications because of the flu, a doctor may prescribe antiviral medicine.

These types of medications can make the symptoms less severe and speed up recovery time. They also have some side effects, which a doctor will discuss with you before recommending the treatment.

The flu jab

If you’re in an at risk group, such as being pregnant, having a long-term condition such as diabetes, heart disease or asthma or are over 65, you may wish to have the flu vaccine.

The vaccine introduces your immune system to the strains of flu thought to be most common, so your body can produce antibodies in advance, meaning it’s better equipped to tackle the virus if you become infected with it during the year.

The strains change rapidly, which is why it’s important to have an annual jab.

Read more about the flu vaccine here.

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