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Flu

Flu will often get better on its own, but it can make some people seriously ill. It's important to get the flu vaccine if you're advised to.

Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include:

  • a sudden fever – a temperature of 38C or above
  • an aching body
  • feeling tired or exhausted
  • a dry cough
  • a sore throat
  • a headache
  • difficulty sleeping
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhoea or tummy pain
  • feeling sick and being sick

The symptoms are similar for children, but they can also get pain in their ear and appear less active.

Telling the difference between cold and flu

Cold and flu symptoms are similar, but flu tends to be more severe.

To help you get better more quickly:

  • rest and sleep
  • keep warm
  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower your temperature and treat aches and pains
  • drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration (your pee should be light yellow or clear)

A pharmacist can give treatment advice and recommend flu remedies.

Be careful not to use flu remedies if you're taking paracetamol and ibuprofen tablets as it's easy to take more than the recommended dose.

Urgent advice: Get advice from 111 now if:

  • you're worried about your baby's or child's symptoms
  • you're 65 or over
  • you're pregnant
  • you have a long-term medical condition – for example, diabetes or a heart, lung, kidney or neurological disease
  • you have a weakened immune system – for example, because of chemotherapy or HIV
  • your symptoms do not improve after 7 days

111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.

Go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111.

Other ways to get help

Get an urgent GP appointment

A GP may be able to treat you.

Ask your GP practice for an urgent appointment.

Antibiotics

GPs do not recommend antibiotics for flu because they will not relieve your symptoms or speed up your recovery.

Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E if you:

  • develop sudden chest pain
  • have difficulty breathing
  • start coughing up blood

How to avoid spreading the flu

Flu is very infectious and easily spread to other people. You're more likely to give it to others in the first 5 days.

Flu is spread by germs from coughs and sneezes, which can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours.

To reduce the risk of spreading flu:

  • wash your hands often with warm water and soap
  • use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze
  • bin used tissues as quickly as possible
See how to wash your hands correctly

The flu vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine. It's offered every year on the NHS to help protect people at risk of flu and its complications.

The best time to have the flu vaccine is in the autumn before flu starts spreading. But you can get the vaccine later.

Information:

There is also a separate children's flu vaccine.