We often blame a bout of illness on influenza, or ‘the flu’, when we’re actually suffering from a common cold or the effects of a different virus. Flu usually has a greater effect on our health, though. It’s good to know the difference between these illnesses and protect yourself, as well other people, against infectious symptoms.
Flu is a viral illness affecting the lungs and upper airways. It usually lasts two to three weeks – anything less is more likely to be a very heavy, short term, common cold – and symptoms tend to appear suddenly.
People with flu can spread the illness easily, as the infectious period starts one day before symptoms show. The virus is usually spread in the small droplets of saliva coughed or sneezed into the atmosphere by an infected person. Direct contact with contaminated hands can also pass the virus on to a healthy person. After five days of flu-like symptoms, risk of spreading the virus reduces.
Flu strikes suddenly. One day, you’re feeling fine – the next, you may have a high temperature, aches, pains and nausea that you cannot explain. You may also experience a cough or loss of appetite which could last for two or three weeks.
Anyone can catch flu. Young children, older persons and people with lowered immune systems will remain infectious for longer. They also stand a greater risk of catching the virus, so if you think you’re suffering – try to avoid them.
Antibiotics are not a treatment for flu because they have no impact on the virus itself. They can only help with complications, such as a chest infection. If you think you have flu, these are some of the best ways to treat the symptoms. We recommend you speak to your GP if the symptoms are long-lasting or causing you great concern.