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The flu season in the UK normally runs from October to May each year. The symptoms normally last no more than 5 days but can be followed by fatigue for a few weeks.

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Type of Influenza

Influenza comes in three different types: A, B and C. Type A is the most serious with the most acute symptoms. This type of outbreak happens every two to three years. Type B is very similar to type A but the symptoms are not as acute. This form of influenza comes around every 4 to 5 years. The final type, C, is the least serious, with symptoms similar to that of the common cold virus.


Flu is normally accompanied by a fever with body temperature rising to 40 C. in some cases. Aching muscles and joints are a common feature, as is fatigue, headaches, dry cough, runny nose and sore throat.

Should I be Concerned?

In most cases influenza is nothing to worry about and the body's immune system will combat the virus quite effectively. Older people and those with asthma, heart or kidney disease should really be vaccinated against seasonal flu.

Most people are able to fight the virus by drinking a lot of fluid (the body loses liquid during a fever) and taking plenty of rest (preferably staying in bed.) Paracetamol or aspirin can help to reduce the fever and an over the counter cough remedy will alleviate symptoms of any cough.

Do not seek out antibiotics! Influenza is viral so antibiotics will have no impact. If complications develop such as a chest infection then a doctor may need to prescribe an antibiotic but this is not usually required.

If your symptoms persist for a week or become more serious then you should consult a doctor. You should contact NHS Direct in the first instance rather than taking yourself to a GP surgery where you are likely to infect other people on the way and in the waiting room.

Preventative Measures

At risk groups such as the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are normally vaccinated against seasonal flu. The seasonal flu vaccine is a "best guess" of what the virus circulating in the community is going to look like. There are currently no vaccines available for the Swine Flu that is currently circulating but not causing much in the way of casualties outside Mexico. A vaccine for this strain of the virus is likely to be available before the European flu season begins later in the year.

It is very important to maintain a good level of hygiene when the flu virus is circulating. Washing your hands regularly and disinfecting surfaces can limit the extent to which the virus can spread.

Remedies and Treatments

All over the counter remedies are designed to relieve symptoms rather than providing a cure. A pharmacist will be able to advise you on the best course of action if you explain your symptoms.

If you are looking for a medication to combat the flu virus itself then these are only available on prescription. The Online Clinic is prepared to prescribe either Tamiflu or Relenza to treat an infection within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms or on a precautionary basis. These are both effective anti-viral drugs. Relenza is taken as an inhaler and Tamiflu is taken as a capsule (children may require Tamiflu suspension.)

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For more information on Tamiflu please click here.

Reviewed by: Dr Loraine Haslam MBBS, DRCOG, DFSRH, LoC SDI, LoC IUT, MRCGP
GMC registration number: 4524038
Date: 9 June 2024
Next review: 8 June 2026
All UK registered doctors can have their registration checked on
The Medical Register at the GMC website.

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