With the whole world focusing on COVID-19, it can be easy to forget that cold & flu season is on our doorstep. Seasonal flu (influenza) is an infection caused by a virus that can affect your nose, throat and lungs. Flu seasons in the UK tends to takes place the same time every year between October to March.
As opposed to COVID-19 seasonal flu has been around a long time and much of the world’s population has built up immunity to it. Flu has a considerably lower mortality rate than COVID-19. COVID-19 is a newer and more severe disease than seasonal flu however this shouldn’t mean that preparing for flu season can be overlooked. Influenza can be very debilitating for those who catch it and potentially deadly for certain people who contract it.
Colds are usually milder than the flu but can be equally debilitating to those who have it. However colds do not generally result in serious health problems such as pneumonia, bacterial infections or hospitalizations as opposed to the flu.
Who is most at risk of serious complications of flu?
- Adults 65 and over
- Children younger than 2
- People with asthma
- People with weakened immune systems
- Pregnant women and women up to 2 weeks after pregnancy
For a full list of those most at risk be sure to check the CDC’s list.
The influenza virus comes in three different types called A, B and C – A and B are the most common types that people suffer from. However with COVID-19 still present around the world it can be easy for people to think they may have COVID instead of the flu or the common cold. It is important that if you suspect you have COVID-19 you contact your doctor by phone and not face to face, to avoid spreading the disease. Also the NHS 111 service is available for those who want to check to see if they’re at risk of COVID-19.
What are common symptoms of Flu?
- A sudden fever –38C or above
- Achy body
- Feeling tired/ exhausted
- A dry cough
- A soar throat
- A headache
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of apetite
- Diarrhoea tummy pain
- Feeling sick and being sick
What are common symptoms of a Cold?
- A block or runny nose
- A sore throat
- Muscle aches
- A raised temperature
- Pressure in your ears and face
- Loss of taste and smell
What are common symptoms of COVID-19?
- A high temperature
- A new, continuous cough
- A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
As you can see there are a number of symptoms that have cross over between COVID-19, flu and colds. So that poses the question which symptoms should you get a test for COVID-19?
Current guidelines as of the date this article has been written are that;
- A temperature of 37.8 should get a COVID-19 test. For temperature checking you can purchase a thermometer from the MyPharmacy website.
- If you are sneezing with no other symptoms it is likely you just have a cold
- Runny blocked nose is likely just a cold, however if you have a lost or altered sense of smell or taste get a COVID-19 test
- A new continuous cough – a continuous cough can be identified as coughing a lot for an hour, or having 3 or more coughing episodes within 24 hours. If you’re unsure or having trouble breathing contact a doctor
It is important if you want to contact a doctor you don’t do so face to face to avoid potentially spreading COVID-19. Instead ring up your doctor or visit the NHS 111 website. If you have are waiting on the test results of COVID-19 it is important you self-isolate with household until you receive results.
Prevention & managing symptoms
For the flu there is a widely available flu shot, despite not being 100% effective it is considered the most reliable method of flu prevention for people ages 6 months and over. If you’re at high risk of developing serious complications this may be a good thing to consider. There are also medications for managing flu if you have contracted the disease and want to reduce its symptoms.
For colds there a range of medications that can help deal with the symptoms.
In general there it is a great idea to focus on maintaining a healthy immune system prior to flu season. This can be done by:
- Not smoking
- Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables
- Regular exercise
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- If you drink alcohol, only drink in moderation
- Get adequate sleep
Fortunately with the advised measures surrounding COVID-19 are also good measures to take to avoid seasonal flu and colds.
- As we’ve all heard over the last few months washing your hands for 20 seconds can go a long way from reducing the spread or contraction of these illnesses.
- As well, maintaining social distancing measures by standing 2m apart from people and avoiding crowds and busy areas help reduce the likelihood of you contracting illness.
- On top of this wearing a facemask when out in busy area’s is also a good way of avoiding spreading disease.
- Using hand sanitizer and spray sanitizer to kill bacteria on your hands and on surfaces you come into contact with.
We hope this advice will help you stay safe throughout the Flu & Cold season. It is very important that if you’re unsure if you have COVID-19 that you contact your doctor or visit the NHS 111 site. As COVID-19 guidelines can change be sure to check the most recent guidelines regularly to stay informed and safe.