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Coughs, Colds and Flu – information from Jennifer Prosser, our Staff Occupational Health and Wellbeing Advisor

29 October 2014

Achoo! Bless you! Oh No! It’s that time of year again! Coughs, colds, or is it flu? How do you know? What do you do?

A cold is a mild viral infection of the nose, throat, sinuses and upper airways. It can cause a blocked nose followed by a runny nose, sneezing, a sore throat and a cough. In adults and older children, the cold will usually last for about a week as the body fights off the infection. Colds in younger children can last up to two weeks.

Flu is an infectious and common viral illness spread by coughs and sneezes. It’s not the same as the common cold. Flu is caused by a different group of viruses. Symptoms tend to be more severe and last longer. You can catch flu – short for influenza – all year round, but it is especially common in winter, which is why it is also known as “seasonal flu”. Flu causes a sudden high temperature, headache and general aches and pains, tiredness and a sore throat. You can also lose your appetite, feel nauseous and have a cough. Flu symptoms can make you feel so exhausted and unwell that you have to stay in bed and rest until you feel better.

How can I prevent a cold or flu from spreading?

There is no cure for a cold or flu, although you can usually relieve the symptoms at home by taking over-the-counter medication, such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and drinking plenty of fluids.

  • wash your hands regularly and properly, particularly after touching your nose or mouth and before handling food
  • always sneeze and cough into tissues as this will help to prevent the virus-containing droplets from your nose and mouth entering the air where they can infect others; throw away used tissues immediately and wash your hands
  • clean surfaces regularly to keep them free of germs
  • use your own cup, plates, cutlery and kitchen utensils
  • use disposable paper towels to dry your hands and face, rather than shared towels. As with tissues, always dispose of the paper towels after you have finished using them

Should I work or stay home?

This should really be considered by you, taking into account how you really feel. Things to think about when making this decision would include: How unwell am I? Am I able to function normally and carry out the duties necessary for my job, albeit with tissues and maybe a croaky voice? Can I alter what I am doing today to be less energetic? If not then would it be better if I stayed at home for a day or two and possibly recover more quickly?

The flu vaccine

A flu vaccine is available free on the NHS for:

  • anyone over the age of 65
  • pregnant women
  • children and adults with an underlying health condition (particularly long-term heart or respiratory disease)
  • children and adults with weakened immune systems

It is given as an annual injection to:

  • adults over the age of 18 at risk of flu (including everyone over 65)
  • children aged six months to two years at risk of flu

The flu vaccine is also given as an annual nasal spray to:

  • children aged two to 18 years at risk of flu
  • healthy children aged two, three and four years old

Despite popular belief, the flu vaccine cannot give you flu as it doesn’t contain the active virus needed to do this.

The flu vaccine is available from October each year. If you think you need it, talk to your GP or practice nurse.

Below are two links to details about getting flu jabs locally:

Local flu jabs!

Local health board invitation to have your flu jab.



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