1. Flu isn’t just a heavy cold
A bad case of the flu can be much worse than the common cold.
Flu is a highly infectious disease and the symptoms occur rapidly. The common cold is significantly less serious. A common cold will begin with a stuffy or runny nose and a sore throat. A bad bout of flu can be much worse than a heavy cold.
Healthy people will typically recover within 2 to 7 days. For some people, flu can lead to hospitalisation, permanent disability or even death.
2. Antibiotics are useless against the flu
Flu is caused by viruses. The fancy name for these viruses is influenza. Despite the fact that some complications of the flu may need to be treated by antibiotics they are useless against the flu virus.
3. Flu is contagious
The flu virus is contained in tiny droplets of the saliva of an infected person. When a person with the flu vaccine coughs or sneezes these droplets spread over a large area. The droplets containing the virus can be breathed in from the air but people can also become infected by touching surfaces upon which these droplets have landed.
Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze and regular handwashing can help but the best way to avoid the consequences of catching the flu is to get vaccinated ideally before flu season starts.
4. Flu is unpredictable
There are different strains, or types, of the flu virus. The strains that are most likely to cause illness are identified in advance of the flu season. Vaccines are then made to match them as closely as possible. Even if the vaccine doesn’t perfectly match a strain it usually provides some protection against it.
The vaccines are given in the autumn ideally before the flu starts circulating.
5. Unfortunately flu can be harmful
People sometimes think a bad cold is the flu, but having the flu can often be much worse than a cold and you may need to stay in bed for a few days. In the worst cases, flu can result in a stay in the hospital or even death.
Some people are more susceptible to the effects of the flu. For them, it can increase the risk of developing more serious illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia or can make existing conditions worse.
Check NHS.UK to find out if you are eligible.
The article was updated by pharmacist Johnathan Laird on November 11th 2022.