Getting through the flu season

Coughing, sneezing, runny nose… yes, it’s flu season, and our infection control team is here with some helpful advice to get you through it.

Seasonal influenza is an acute respiratory infection caused by four types of viruses.

And just like Covid-19, protecting yourself – by getting vaccinated and regularly washing your hands, among other things – is the best way to defeat it.

Sam Marsh, the IPC lead at St Hugh’s, said: “If you suddenly experience a fever, a cough that’s usually dry, a headache, muscle and joint pain, a sore throat and a runny nose, and feeling generally unwell, then it could be flu.

“Most recover from the fever and other symptoms within a week without needing medical help, but the cough can last for more than a fortnight.

“All age groups can be affected, but flu can be dangerous to people in high-risk groups, such as the elderly or people with chronic conditions.

“Health care workers, too, are at a higher risk of getting flu, and it spreads very easily, especially in crowded places like schools.”

Flu is transmitted when an infected person coughs or sneezes and droplets containing the virus spreads in the air. These droplets can spread as far as one metre, infecting people who breathe them in.

“It can also spread by hands,” said Sam, “so hand-washing regularly, and covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, is essential.

“If you’re not in a high-risk group, the medical advice is stay at home to avoid infecting other people and relieve symptoms using over-the-counter remedies. If your condition worsens, seek medical attention.

“The best way to prevent it is to get vaccinated each year. It’s an annual thing because the immunity you gain from the vaccination wanes over time.

“And remember – wash your hands regularly and make sure you dry them properly, cover your mouth and nose with tissues when coughing or sneezing and dispose the tissues. If you feel unwell with flu-like symptoms, stay at home and away from other people, and perhaps test yourself for Covid-19, too, as the symptoms are very similar.”

As reported, flu is the current focus of our infection control team within the hospital. For more information about the NHS’s seasonal flu vaccination campaign and to find out if you’re eligible, visit www.nhs.uk/wintervaccinations