Most of us will probably have a cold this winter and some of us will have flu. Find out how to look after yourself if these viruses affect you.
Antibiotics don't work on colds or flu. Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections but colds and flu are caused by viruses. There are more than 200 common cold viruses, and three types of flu virus with many different strains, so they're hard to avoid. These viruses can be spread through droplets that are coughed and sneezed out by an infected person. The viruses can also be transferred on a person's fingers. For example, if you have a cold and you touch your nose or eyes and then touch someone else, you may pass the virus on to them.
The main symptoms of winter bugs are coughing, sneezing, blocked nose, sore throat, headache and a slight temperature. If these are the only symptoms you have, it's unlikely that your GP will be able to do anything - in most cases, antibiotics (which are used to treat bacterial infections) aren't necessary.
You may want to visit your local pharmacy, where you can get advice on how to manage the symptoms and buy over-the-counter medicine.
Don't pass it on
- CATCH IT Germs spread easily. Always carry tissues and use them to catch your cough or sneeze.
- BIN IT Germs can live for several hours on tissues. Dispose of your tissue as soon as possible.
- KILL IT Hands can transfer germs to every surface you touch. Clean your hands as soon as you can.
- Get rest and eat well
Pharmacists say cold and flu medicines are among their top sellers in the winter. Some of the remedies combine painkillers with decongestants, which help to manage symptoms.
"Painkillers, such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin, can really help if you have a cold," according to pharmacist Angela Chalmers. But aspirin shouldn't be given to children under 16 years of age. "Decongestants help to reduce the swelling inside your nose so you can breathe more easily." Find your local pharmacy.
Children can also be treated using over-the-counter painkillers to ease discomfort and help to bring down a fever. Both paracetamol and ibuprofen are available as a liquid for children and can be given from the age of about three months. Always check with your doctor if you aren't sure which treatments you can give your child.
When to visit your GP
You should speak to your GP surgery about getting seasonal flu vaccination (flu jab) if you:
- are 65 years old or over
- are pregnant (see below)
- have a serious medical condition (see below)
- are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility (not including prisons, young offender institutions or university halls of residence)
- are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
- are a frontline health or social care worker (see below)
- are pregnant
If you are the parent of a child who is over six months old and has a long-term condition on the list below, speak to your GP about the flu vaccine. Your child's condition may get worse if they catch flu.
Adapted from NHS Choices: How to deal with colds and flu - Live Well - NHS Choices Colds and flu - Live Well - NHS Choices Cold, Common - Treatment - NHS Choices Flu vaccination - Who should have it - NHS Choices
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