What can you do about flu?

The only thing certain about the influenza season is that it will arrive. Factors such as when it starts, or how severe it will be, change as often as influenza viruses themselves.

As countries prepare their health systems, including hospitals and clinics, for the annual epidemic, we can all take steps to be ready and help stop the spread of infection. As we kick off our preparedness for seasonal influenza with the annual Flu Awareness Campaign, here are 3 steps to consider.

1. Get vaccinated

Anyone can benefit from influenza vaccination, but it is particularly important if you are in a high-risk group. WHO recommends that older people, pregnant women, children under 5 years old, and people with an underlying health condition such as asthma or diabetes get vaccinated. If a loved one falls into one of these categories, encourage them to get the vaccine.

2. Use good manners when you cough and sneeze

Coughs and sneezes spread the germs that cause influenza. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze using your arm or a tissue. Make sure you throw any tissues away before washing your hands with soap and water.

3. Keep your hands clean

Washing your hands regularly throughout the day can help protect you from influenza and other germs.

And if you have flu…

If you have influenza, remember that hospital emergency departments are only for serious cases. If you have symptoms like fever, sore throat, coughing and sneezing, go home and rest so you don’t infect others. Keep warm and drink plenty of fluids. You can also contact primary health-care providers, local clinics and pharmacists to seek advice on your symptoms.

Influenza is never a pleasant experience, but for most people the symptoms will improve over the course of a few days without needing to visit a doctor. However, if you are in a high-risk group, it is advisable to contact your doctor early as it may be possible for you to receive antiviral treatment.

Never take antibiotics unless they were prescribed for you. Antibiotics do not work on viruses, including influenza. Despite this, every year antibiotics are used incorrectly for influenza with no benefit.

Misuse or overuse of antibiotics is the main driver of antimicrobial resistance, which is also a serious threat. This occurs when bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, and means that anybody, anywhere can get an untreatable infection – even from seemingly minor injuries.