Seasonal flu in the COVID-19 era
Flu season is a source of anxiety, particularly for those in more vulnerable categories. Each year, flu outbreaks are responsible for an estimated 10,000 deaths in England alone. Add this to the fear surrounding COVID-19, and it is understandable that people are worried about contracting either of these potentially fatal viruses. The COVID-19 pandemic has almost become the sole focus for the media and the public despite the best efforts of the NHS and the UK Government with their flu awareness campaign.
The key reason we should still focus on flu and not just Covid-19 is that it can be just as deadly for older people as COVID-19. An estimated 85% of all flu related hospital admissions are with the elderly.
The pandemic has encouraged us all to improve our hygiene practices: wearing masks, washing our hands regularly and thoroughly, as well as regularly using hand sanitiser. Hopefully, these precautions will also reduce the impact of flu, but what are some other things we can actively be doing?
Preventing Seasonal Flu
- Get your flu jab – speak to your GP about your eligibility for the flu jab. NHS recommendations state that if you are eligible, you should prioritise getting the jab, even if you had it last year. This has always been the sensible advice, but it is more important than ever that you follow it this year.
- Eat a balanced diet – protecting your health starts with eating well: regular good quality meals, ensuring you have your five fruit and vegetables a day, and drinking lots of water will give your body the best chance of fighting the flu if you catch it.
- Get plenty of sleep – we all know that poor, broken or insufficient sleep will impact on your immune system and leave you more at risk of infection, so ensure you maintain a healthy sleep schedule and get plenty of rest.
- Get regular exercise – moving your body, raising your heart rate, and staying strong, fit and active will give you a better chance of fighting off the flu if you should catch it.
Unsurprisingly, much of the above is also key to protecting you from catching and dealing with COVID-19. With this in mind, the following advice will likely be familiar to you but it can help with both COVID-19 and the flu.
- Keep your distance from others – staying away from others will limit the spread of germs, so avoid crowds, stay six feet away from other people and always wear a good quality face mask.
- Wash your hands often – One of the best ways to avoid flu is wash your hands well with soap and warm water for 20 seconds several times a day. The NHS website has full guidelines on the best practices for washing your hands, so if you are unsure, do have a look online.
- Do not touch your face – eyes, nose and mouth are all perfect entry points for the flu virus, so don’t give it the chance. The average person touches their face 20 times a minute, which is why clean hands are so important. Try your best to stop this, especially when you are out and about with limited access to hand-washing facilities.
- If you catch the flu, contact your GP – even with the best preparation and hard work to avoid flu you may end up catching it. If this does happen, contact your GP without delay, as they will be able to arrange treatments and offer advice. For example, in some cases they will prescribe antiviral medication that may reduce both the severity and duration of flu symptoms. Such medication is neither appropriate nor suitable for everyone, but your GP will be able to advise you.
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