Each winter, an outbreak of flu – the influenza virus – poses a health risk to the UK. For most people having the flu means a couple of days off work, but it can have serious and fatal consequences. The NHS is already stretched, and hospital admissions soar during the winter, so it’s important that you do everything possible to avoid infection.
There are an estimated 8,000 deaths annually in England and Wales attributed to flu. This year, the UK is already preparing for one of the largest and worst outbreaks in recent times – a serious strain nicknamed the Aussie Flu is set to put extra strain on hospitals. This deadly flu has already seen many in Australia and New Zealand badly affected, and experts say it will definitely make it to UK shores.
Catching the flu can be particularly serious for certain groups such as children, the elderly and those with chronic diseases. Ahead of this year’s cold and flu season, which is estimated to be the worst in decades, take these precautions.
The best way to protect yourself against the flu is by having a flu jab. Some people are eligible for a free flu vaccination on the NHS, including anybody over the age of 65 and pregnant women. Young children should receive the flu jab at school or at their GP surgery, and workers most at risk such as nurses and carers can also have a free vaccination. Even if you’re not in an eligible group, you can book yourself in for a vaccination for around £20 at a high street pharmacy.
Looking after yourself and making sure your immune system is in peak condition could help prevent infection. It’s easy to forget about a healthy diet and exercise when it’s cold and dark outside, but this is essential for fighting common illnesses. You may wish to stock up on extra vitamin supplements, especially vitamin C which can help reduce cold and flu symptoms.
It’s important to up the levels of hygiene at home and at work during flu season to stop germs spreading. Practice handwashing regularly and carry around an alcohol gel for your hands when out in public. You’re bound to touch surfaces where the virus is present, so keep hands clean before eating and clean your workspace more often including shared telephones and computers.
Each year thousands of people have to say goodbye to a loved one who has caught the flu, so do your best to protect you and your family in advance.