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Cold or flu?

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Author: Holly Hannigan, Posted: Friday, 23rd November 2018, 09:00

As the winter season takes hold with bitter winds and dropping temperatures, staying snuggled inside seems very tempting. Winter also brings with it a host of germs and viruses that can spread like wildfire, causing chaos, particularly among the young and elderly.

They are two completely different viruses

Many people suffer the symptoms of a common cold and often use the word ‘flu’ to describe it. Yet they are two completely different viruses and whilst a cold can be uncomfortable, you can usually carry on everyday activities such as work. However, the flu makes you so unwell that you are unable to do anything apart from rest.

Symptoms of a cold are a runny or blocked nose, headache, sore throat and perhaps a raised temperature and cough. The cold virus is spread through germs in coughs and sneezes that live on surfaces for up to 24 hours. To avoid spreading or indeed catching a cold you should wash your hands with soap and warm water often, use tissues to catch coughs and sneezes then throw them in a bin, and try to stay fit and healthy.

Flu symptoms can come on very quickly and include a sudden fever, aching body, exhaustion, cough, sore throat, headache, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, diarrhoea or tummy pain, and nausea and being sick. Pneumonia is a complication of flu that can impact those in the high risk categories:

• People aged 65 and over

• Pregnant women

• Children and adults with an underlying health condition

• Children and adults with a weakened immune system

In order to protect the most vulnerable from complications, a flu vaccine is now widely available on the NHS for the high risk categories and all children aged 2-10.

There are 3 types of flu vaccine available:

• A nasal spray for children and young people aged 2-17 years, which protects against four strains of flu (a live quadrivalent vaccine).

• An injection for adults aged 18-65 who have a long-term health condition (a quadrivalent injected vaccine).

• An injection for people aged 65 and over, which is an adjuvanted trivalent vaccine that has been shown to be more effective in this age group.

The flu vaccine is widely available

The flu vaccine is available at your GP surgery, a local pharmacy, from midwives, and children are offered the vaccine in school. As with any vaccine there may be side effects such as a mild fever and aching muscles for a couple of days after having the vaccine and your arm may be sore where you had the injection. Side effects from the nasal spray may include a runny or blocked nose, headache, tiredness and loss of appetite.

Contact your GP to find out if you are eligible for a flu vaccine and stay well this winter.

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