Most of us have been struck down by the dreaded flu at least once in our lives. If you’re one of the unlucky bunch, you’ll be all too familiar with the debilitating symptoms; the fever, the aches and pains, the loss of appetite and general grogginess that takes over.
Although it usually results in a few days off work cuddled up in bed, the flu is definitely something you’d rather avoid at all costs.
As flu season is well and truly upon us, below we’re listing the top facts every Irish person should know about the flu; its symptoms, how to prevent it and how to fight it off.
- When Is Flu Season?
Seasonal flu (or Influenza) is thought to affect thousands of Irish people every year between October and March.
- The Flu Is Spread In The Most Disgusting Way
The flu is a viral infection and is spread when you breathe in the small droplets of saliva that move through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Yes, it’s a disgusting visual image but as these droplets are microscopic, it can be hard to avoid.
In addition to breathing in an infected person’s saliva, flu can also be passed when an infected person touches a common surface (like a door handle) without washing their hands.
- The Flu Is NOT The Same As A Cold
Sometimes it can be difficult to discern whether you have the flu or a bad cold as the symptoms have their similarities.
A cold is a mild respiratory illness that tends to come on slowly but pass quickly, within a few days. You often start off with a sore throat, a cough and a blocked nose which all improve within a few days. When you have the flu, however, the symptoms come on quite suddenly within a few hours and tend to feel much more severe than a cold.
Symptoms of the flu include:
- A fever from 38-40 degrees centigrade.
- Runny nose.
- Sore throat and a dry tickly cough.
- Muscle and joint pain and general aches.
- Severe headaches.
- Loss of appetite.
- Feeling cold and shivery and hot and sweaty.
- Having trouble sleeping.
- Feeling emotional.
- Vomiting or diarrhoea
- Healthy People Get The Flu Too
The flu is an illness that doesn’t discriminate; anyone can catch the flu regardless of their age, gender and general health levels. That said, if you are in good health you are much less likely to catch the infection and your body will be better equipped to fight it off.
You should eat a balanced diet with plenty of nutritious fruits and vegetables, get regular exercise and try to sleep for eight hours every night.
- The Flu Can Kill You
The main symptoms of the flu tend to peak after around five days but a feeling of fatigue can last for up to three weeks. In most cases, symptoms will pass without any long-term health implications. However, in certain circumstances, the flu can be dangerous and even life- threatening to vulnerable groups (the elderly, pregnant and those with health conditions) as it can potentially lead to pneumonia.
- The Flu Can’t Be Cured With Antibiotics
As the flu is a viral infection, it can’t be treated with antibiotics. However, if you’re admitted to hospital your doctor may give you antibiotics to treat any secondary bacterial infections.
The best way to fight the flu is with bed rest, plenty of fluids and paracetamol to keep your temperature down.
- The Flu Vaccine Is The Best Form Of Prevention
It is advised that you get the flu vaccine every year if you are over the age of 65, pregnant or have a long-term health condition. You should also get vaccinated if you are a healthcare worker, a resident of a long-stay institution or a care home, or if you come in to regular contact with pigs, poultry or water fowl.
The flu vaccine is not 100% effective but it is the best method of prevention and works by causing antibodies to develop, which protect against infection.
- You Don’t Have To Visit Your GP To Get The Flu Jab
Of course, you can get a flu vaccination from your GP if you wish. However, if you don’t want to schedule an appointment with your doctor, you can also get the flu jab from your local pharmacy, such as Boots. The consultation and vaccination is free of charge if you are considered to be ‘vulnerable’ to the flu and if you have a Medical card, Doctor Visit Card, HA or 2015A card. If not, it costs €20.
- Young, Healthy People Don’t Need To Get A Flu Jab – True or false?
Those considered within the ‘vulnerable’ category are recommended to get an annual flu vaccination. However, if you don’t fall in to any of those groups and are fit and healthy by normal standards, you can still get the flu jab if you want to protect yourself.
- You Should Form A Germ Barrier Around Yourself
Flu is caused by the spreading of germs, so you should try to keep yourself as ‘germ free’ as possible. As mentioned, it’s hard to avoid those microscopic saliva droplets, but you can minimise your risk by washing your hands thoroughly and often, using hand sanitiser and cleaning surfaces with disinfectant wipes. Try also not to share any utensils, plates or cups with others.
- Smoking Makes The Flu Worse
There is evidence to suggest that smokers are not only more susceptible to the flu, but they tend to contract more severe infections and even have an increased risk of dying from the flu.
- And So Does Drinking
We hate to break it to you during party season but research has shown that excessive alcohol consumption can have a negative impact on your immune system which will make it very difficult for you to fight off any viral infections.
- Green Tea Should Be Your Best Friend
Green tea is packed with anti-oxidants that are great for your health, plus breathing in the steam stimulates the hair follicles in the nose to move out germs more efficiently.
- If You Feel Flu Symptoms, STAY AT HOME
If you are feeling a little under the weather, don’t push yourself to go to work. Take time off and rest to let your body fight the illness. Not only will your body thank you for it, but your colleagues will too; if you do have a flu coming on, the infectious period occurs at the start.
What are your tips for preventing the flu? Let us know on social media by using the hashtag #myIrishlife