What is it?

Flu, short for influenza, is a contagious respiratory virus. Flu is especially prevalent in the winter months and is very contagious as not only is passed it through contact with an infected person but if someone with flu sneezes, the droplets can infect anyone within a meter of them if they inhale them.

Sometimes it can be difficult to differentiate flu from a common cold as they share many symptoms. However, the main difference is that while a cold may make you feel unwell for a few days, influenza can make you poorly for a longer period of time. In addition, those with flu also experience fever and muscle aches which do not usually occur with a common cold.


There are a range of symptoms that are associated with influenza. Most commonly those with flu will suffer from a combination of the symptoms detailed below:

  • Cold like symptoms, such as a sore throat, sneezing, a dry cough and a runny nose.
  • Chills
  • Aching muscles
  • Pain in limbs and/or joints
  • A sudden increase in temperature (100.4°F)

The symptoms of flu will peak after 3 days of having the virus and you will feel a lot better within a week. However, it is common to have a lingering cough and to feel very tired after recovering from flu. This cough and fatigue can last a few weeks.


In most cases, flu can be treated at home. However, if your symptoms persist or you are elderly, pregnant or have a pre-existing illness that makes you especially vulnerable, it is a good idea to visit your doctor as home remedies may not be enough. You are likely to be prescribed anti-viral medication which can help reduce the amount of time that you are ill and relieve some of the symptoms. Most importantly, anti-viral flu medication will reduce the chances of serious complications.

If you have flu, you need to rest and keep warm. In addition, it is important that those with flu drink plenty of clear fluids to prevent them from becoming dehydrated. Paracetamol and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, such as ibroprofen, can help relieve the aches and cool the fever that accompanies flu. In addition, cough and cold remedies, such as cough medicine and lozenges, can help sooth a sore throat and improve coughing.

If you are looking after someone suffering from flu, make sure that they are in a separate room from the rest of the household to prevent the spread of the virus. In addition, it is important that everyone in the house regularly washes their hands to prevent further spread of the virus.  

If you suffer from a medical condition that impairs your immune system, are elderly or have a lung condition, it is a wise idea to get a flu shot as a precautionary measure as these conditions make you more vulnerable.