With today's busy lifestyles, it's often difficult to avoid the flu.
Many viruses can cause a flu-like illness. Flu-like illnesses typically cause a high temperature (fever), aches and pains in muscles and joints, a cough and various other symptoms. Most people recover fully, but complications such as pneumonia can sometimes develop with potentially serious complications.
Flu (influenza) is caused by the influenza virus. However, many other viruses can cause an illness similar to flu. It is often difficult to say exactly which virus is causing the illness, so doctors often diagnose a flu-like illness.
Each winter a different type of influenza virus causes an outbreak of flu, which affects many people. This is called seasonal flu. If you get a flu-like illness during an outbreak of seasonal flu, it is likely to be caused by the prevailing influenza virus. Most cases of flu usually occur in a period of six to eight weeks during the winter.
Flu appears quickly within a few hours. It affects more than your throat and nose. It makes you exhausted and too unwell to carry on as normal.
A cold appears gradually. It affects mainly your nose and throat. It makes you feel unwell but you can still carry on.
• You're worried about your baby's or child's symptoms
• You're 65 or over
• You're pregnant
• You have a long-term medical condition, e.g. diabetes or a heart, lung, kidney or neurological disease
• You have a weakened immune system, e.g. because of chemotherapy or HIV
• Your symptoms don't improve after seven days.
Call 999 or go to A&E if you (i) develop sudden chest pain (ii) have difficulty breathing or (iii) start coughing up blood.
If you are at increased risk of developing complications, you should consider having a flu jab each autumn.