Influenza (also known as “the flu”) can be really deadly. The reason for this is because it can overwhelm certain people and essentially put their organs under a huge amount of pressure.
The flu kills about 500,000 people around the world each year. In New Zealand, more people die from the flu than from car accidents.
If you're over 65, pregnant or under the age of 5, your risks from flu are greater.
Cold vs the Flu
Colds and flu are caused by different viruses but both affect your airways. A cold is not as serious. It's generally mild and lasts up to 5 days. Cold share some of the symptoms of flu, like sore throat, sneezing, running nose, sometimes a cough and mild fever.
The flu is a moderate-to-severe illness lasting up to 10 days. Symptoms are a lot worse with high fever (38-40 degrees celsius), shivering, muscle aches, headache, tiredness and dry cough (which can become moist). To be 100% certain, your GP can take a swab from your nose and send it to a lab and have it confirmed.
Both colds and flu are spread through water droplets. If you sneeze, you’re sending it out to the world.
The best form of flu prevention is the flu vaccine.
Myth-busting fact: You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccination. If you get the flu, you would have gotten it anyway.
One great benefit of the flu vaccine is you’re not only protecting yourself, you're protecting everybody else.
There’s no quick solution for colds and flu, but the key thing is to treat it quickly. You can take paracetamol, drink plenty of fluids, and eat fresh healthy food.
Even though you can’t get antibiotics from your doctor (it's a virus, rather than a bacteria), it is still important to see a GP. You might think it’s the flu but it could also be something more serious like meningococcal or meningitis. Don’t take the risk.
Generally with a cold and flu, you'll just get better on your own. And remember, don’t be spreading your germs at work or school. Stay home and rest. It's important to wash your hands and live a healthy lifestyle. This is your best protection from getting it in the first place.
Watch Well Revolution's Doctor Sash explain Influenza on TVNZ Seven Sharp.
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