What to do if you have flu symptoms

What are the symptoms of flu?

Flu symptoms hit you suddenly and sometimes severely. They usually include fever, chills, headaches and aching muscles, and you can often get a cough and sore throat at the same time. Flu is caused by viruses and not bacteria, so antibiotics won’t treat it.

People sometimes think a bad cold is flu, but having flu can be much worse than a cold and you may need to stay in bed for a few days if you have flu. 

Am I at greater risk from the effects of seasonal flu?

Even if you feel healthy, you should consider having the free seasonal flu vaccine if you have:

  • a heart problem 
  • a chest complaint or breathing difficulties, including bronchitis or emphysema
  • a kidney disease
  • lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (such as steroid medication or cancer treatment)
  • a liver disease
  • had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
  • diabetes
  • a neurological condition, for example multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy
  • a problem with your spleen, for example sickle cell disease, or you have had your spleen removed

You should also think about getting the flu vaccine if you are:

  • aged 65 years or over
  • living in a residential or nursing home
  • the main carer of an older or disabled person
  • a frontline health or social care worker, or
  • pregnant

Don’t wait until there is a flu outbreak this winter: contact your GP or practice nurse now to get your seasonal flu jab.

Actions to protect yourself

  • Get vaccinated against flu. The vaccine is being offered to people who are most likely to become seriously ill if they catch flu.
  • Hand hygiene is recognised as the single most important activity for minimising the risk of infection.

Other things you should do include:

  • Covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, using a tissue when possible
  • Disposing of dirty tissues promptly and carefully
  • Maintaining good basic hygiene, for example washing hands frequently with soap and water to reduce the spread of the virus from your hands to face or to other people
  • Cleaning hard surfaces (for example, door handles) frequently using a normal cleaning product
  • Making sure your children follow this advice.

Where to get advice about flu

For information about flu visit the NHS Choices website

When to call 999

Advice from the Department of Health is that you SHOULD NOT go to hospital if you just have flu-like symptoms. However, you should always call 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured, and their life is at risk.