About Influenza

Information is available from the Ministry of Health. Some information is available here.

  • Influenza – or the flu – is a virus that spreads quickly from person to person. Symptoms include fever, chills, aches, runny nose, a cough and stomach upset. Immunisation is your best defence against the flu.

Stopping the spread

If you are unwell, stay at home until you are better.

Follow basic hygiene practices:

  • Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds and dry them for 20 seconds – or use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Don’t share drinks.
  • Avoid crowded places.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze – then put the tissue in a lined bin.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of influenza can include:

  • fever (a temperature of 38°C or higher)
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • body aches
  • headache
  • chills
  • stomach upset, vomiting or diarrhoea.

It may take between 1–4 days to feel symptoms after you catch influenza.

The worst symptoms usually last about 5 days, but coughing can last up to 2–3 weeks.

Influenza complications

Danger signs

Seek urgent medical advice if you have:

  • a high fever that doesn’t come down, especially if you are pregnant
  • chills or severe shaking
  • difficulty breathing or chest pain
  • purple or bluish discolouration of your lips, skin, fingers or toes
  • seizures or convulsions
  • signs of other serious conditions, such as meningococcal disease (which may include severe headache, sleepiness, vomiting, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights, and sometimes a rash).

Look out for signs of dehydration such as dizziness when standing, and not passing urine regularly.

If a person you are caring for is less responsive than normal, unusually quiet, or confused, you should call a doctor urgently.

It is also important to let your doctor know if you were starting to feel better, then get worse.

Danger signs for babies and young children

Call a doctor if your baby or child’s breathing is fast or noisy or if they are wheezing or grunting. Check if the area below the ribs sucks inward (instead of expanding as normal) as they breathe in.

You should get help if your baby or child is:

  • very pale
  • drowsy or difficult to wake
  • severely irritable, not wanting to be held
  • limp or unable to move
  • if a baby has dry nappies or no tears when they are crying, it means they are dehydrated. It is important to contact a doctor
  • if they have signs of other serious conditions, such as meningococcal disease (which may include severe headache, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights, and sometimes a rash, but in very young children are often non-specific such as sleepiness and vomiting).

If you have any worries about yourself or someone you are caring for, call Healthline (0800 611 116) for advice or see a doctor, even if you have called or been seen before.

What to do if you or a family member has symptoms?

 

Phone Healthline (0800 611 116) or your doctor if you are concerned or if you:

  • feel a lot worse, or you are not getting better after a few days
  • have an existing health condition or are in a high risk group
  • are pregnant
  • are taking any medication that affects the immune system
  • are looking after someone with influenza and you are in a high risk group

If clinically indicated, your doctor may recommend antiviral medications. Take them as directed.

Caring for babies and children

When a baby or child has influenza, it is important to do the following:

  • keep the child at home resting until they are well.
  • care for the child in a separate, well-ventilated room away from other people.
  • increase the frequency of breastfeeding or the amount of other fluids they drink. If your child will not take fluids or is drowsy, don’t force them. Seek medical advice immediately.
  • reduce fever by using a damp cloth on their forehead, washing their arms and body with a cool cloth, bathing them in slightly warm water.
  • give paracetamol or ibuprofen if they have pain or discomfort in the dose recommended on the package (unless your doctor says otherwise). Aspirin should not be given to children under 14 years of age.

Saltwater drops (saline) or breast milk if breast feeding can be used to treat a stuffy nose.

Caring for yourself and others

If you are unwell, stay at home and rest ideally/preferably in a separate, well ventilated room away from other people.

It is important to drink small amounts of fluids often.

Antibiotics only work against bacterial infections, not the viral infections that cause influenza.

Carefully read and follow the labels on any medication and contact your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions

You can also:

  • reduce fever by using a damp cloth on your forehead, washing the arms and body with a cool cloth, bathing in slightly warm water
  • take appropriate medicines to relieve discomfort and fever if necessary.
  • It is especially important to reduce fever if you are pregnant.
  • gargle a glass of warm water and/or suck sugarless hard sweets or lozenges to help with sore throats
  • shower or bathe regularly and keep bedding and nightwear clean and dry
  • use skin balm or moisturiser to stop your lips from cracking.

Know the danger signs that mean you should seek urgent medical attention

Any child younger than 3 months who has a fever should see a doctor.

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