The cooler weather is approaching, which also signals the start of the inevitable coughs, colds and fevers that make us want to go into hibernation. But how can you beat the germs and make yourself feel a bit more alive when you’re struck down by the dreaded f word – flu?
‘Flu’ is a broad name given to three strains of over a hundred types of influenza virus, which is responsible for most of the coughs and colds we catch throughout the year. However, flu is more serious and contagious than its milder cousin, the winter cold, and can take you from busy to bedbound in just a few hours, with a generous dose of coughing, chills, achy and weak muscles and high temperature too. Most people recover from it within a week or two with no lasting effects, but it can lead to complications such as pneumonia in vulnerable or elderly people.
Protect yourself against flu
Flu can be serious, especially for those who already struggle with a serious health problem, so it’s sometimes better to prevent catching it in the first place.
Dr Pixie McKenna, Superdrug’s Health & Wellbeing Ambassador, advises “The flu jab is important for anyone to have and particularly if they already have medical problems such as asthma, diabetes or if you're pregnant. If you come under this category simply head to your local pharmacy for a flu jab consultation.
Getting the flu jab is important for looking after others too, especially if you’re a carer looking after an elderly relative who could have a lower immune system, or in a career where you're more exposed to picking up the flu such as teachers, or parents looking after young children.”
If you fall in to any of the below categories, you can get a free flu vaccination from Superdrug pharmacies in England and Wales.
- You are over 65
- You have children over the age of 6 months with a long-term health condition, Children aged 2 and 3 on born between September 1 2014 and August 31 2016 and children in reception class and school years 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.
- You have a long-term health condition like diabetes, asthma, heart disease or kidney disease
- You have a BMI over 40
- Have a reduced immune system
- You are pregnant
- You are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long stay care facility
- You 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
Even if you’re not eligible for an NHS vaccine, anyone can be vaccinated against the most common strains of flu for a small fee. Visit the flu vaccination section of our website to find out more.
So, how can you make yourself feel better if you get the flu?
Have a duvet day
Flu is really contagious and can have a serious impact on the elderly, very young or those who have long-term health problems. So, to avoid spreading the virus to anyone who’s vulnerable, stay at home and get plenty of rest, as this will also help your body fight off the virus and get you back to normal as quickly as possible.
Stick the kettle on
It’s vital to stay hydrated when you’ve got the flu and hot drinks in particular can help to ease some of the nasty symptoms. Natural remedies such as hot water with honey and lemon or fresh ginger can help to reduce discomfort from sore throats, excess mucus and feelings of nausea. You can also try dissolving salt in warm water and gargling, which is said to help with recovery from a virus and congestion (just make sure to spit it out afterwards). If you don’t fancy those, try dissolving a flu remedy sachet in hot water. Most contain paracetamol to combat aches and pains alongside ingredients to help loosen a chesty cough - always make sure you read the label first! Even a good old cup of tea can do wonders when you’re sick and feeling sorry for yourself.
Speak to a pharmacist
Visiting your GP might turn out to be waste of time when you have flu, as antibiotics have no effect on the virus and most people just have to wait it out. However, over-the-counter remedies like sore throat lozenges, paracetamol and ibuprofen can reduce your symptoms. Day and Night tablets, such as Superdrug’s Max Cold & Flu Day and Night Tablets, contain two types of medication: one will treat symptoms such as a sore throat, aches and pains and fatigue during the day and the other will help you get a good night’s sleep, which will speed your recovery along. If you’re not sure which products might help you through the flu, pop into a branch and speak to a Superdrug pharmacist.
Steam away the germs
Try a relaxing bath or shower to steam away some of the worst symptoms of flu. The steam from warm water will help to clear your head and loosen mucus from your chest, and showering before bed is a good way to wind down for a restful night’s sleep. You could also try sprinkling Epsom salts into a warm bath as they’re known for their ability to relax and soothe aching muscles, or a few drops of calming essential oils like lavender or peppermint can do the trick too.
Dr Pixie’s top tips for avoiding the flu this Winter:
- Wash your hands. Hand to nose, hand to mouth, hand to eye – this is how the flu virus will enter your body. Hand washing is critical, people underestimate the importance of this. Germs from sneezing and coughing can stay on hard surfaces for up to three hours and on your clothes for around 20 minutes.Take time to wash them thoroughly - for at least 30 seconds.
- Fresh air. Offices and air con will spread the flu more, especially in the winter when the windows are closed or when you have office parties – as there will be more close contact. Open windows when you can and make sure you get fresh air at lunchtimes.
- Get a flu jab! Protect yourself by visiting your local Superdrug pharmacy and simply popping into a nurse clinic.