Colds and Seasonal Flu

Colds and flu affect 15 million people each year in the UK. Often people make unnecessary trips to their GP when they should be resting at home

However, flu can be a serious condition for some people, so it’s important to get advice if you have flu like symptoms.


Is it a cold or Flu? 

Cold and flu symptoms are similar but flu tends to be more severe.

  • Appears quickly within a few hours
  •    Appears gradually
  • Affects more than just your nose and throat
  •    Affects mainly your nose and throat
  • Makes you feel exhausted and too unwell to carry on as normal
  •   Makes you feel unwell but you’re okay to    carry on as normal – for example, go to work


Seasonal Flu

Flu is a highly infectious illness that spreads rapidly through the coughs and sneezes of people who are carrying the virus.

The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to people who are at risk. This is to ensure they are protected against catching flu and developing serious complications.

You are eligible to receive a free flu jab if you: 

  • are 65 years of age or over   
  • are pregnant 
  • have certain medical conditions 
  • are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility 
  • receive a carer's allowance, or you are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill 

Front-line health and social care workers are also eligible to receive the flu vaccine. It is your employer's responsibility to arrange and pay for this vaccine. 

When you see your GP for a flu jab, ask whether you also need the 'pneumo jab' to protect you against some forms of pneumococcal infection. It’s available free on the NHS to everyone aged 65 or over, and for younger people with some serious medical conditions.


Catch It, Bin It, Kill It

If you could see flu germs you'd see how easy it is to pass flu from person to person.

Flu viruses can live on hard services for several hours, making it easy to spread.

To prevent the spread of flu, catch it in a clean tissue, bin it, and kill it by washing your hands or using a sanitiser gel.


Coughs and Colds

Most of us will probably have a cold this winter and some of us will have flu. Colds and flu are caused by viruses. There are more than 200 common cold viruses, and three types of flu virus with many different strains, so they're hard to avoid.

These viruses can be spread through droplets that are coughed and sneezed out by an infected person. The viruses can also be transferred on a person's fingers. For example, if you have a cold and you touch your nose or eyes and then touch someone else, you may pass the virus on to them.

The main symptoms of winter bugs are coughing, sneezing, blocked nose, sore throat, headache and a slight temperature. If these are the only symptoms you have, it’s unlikely that your GP will be able to do anything.

In most cases, antibiotics (which are used to treat bacterial infections) aren’t necessary. Colds and flu, and most coughs, are caused by viruses so antibiotics can’t help. Minor bacterial infections will also be fought off by natural immunity.

You may want to visit your local pharmacy, where you can get advice on how to manage the symptoms and buy over-the-counter medicine.

For more information on how to deal with Colds and Flu, as well as self care tips, please visit the NHS Choices website .