Flu and colds are always rife in the winter, but this year in particular more people seem to be succumbing.
According to Public Health England, during the winter so far almost three times as many people have died of flu compared to last winter.
At the same time, the Royal College of GPs says more than 30,000 people visited a GP last week as a result of influenza-like illness, an increase of more than 9,000 compared with the first week of January.
One knock-on effect, of course, is that a lot of people will be off work, sometimes for several days, to recover. We hope you’re not among those who are suffering, but if you are, and if you’re wondering whether you have flu or a cold, here are a few facts to mull over while you take your temperature.
What is flu?
Influenza (also known as the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Symptoms include a sudden fever (with a temperature of 38C or above); aching body; feeling tired or exhausted; dry, chesty cough; sore throat; headache; difficulty sleeping; loss of appetite; diarrhoea or tummy pain; and nausea and being sick.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, then don’t go into work – stay at home until you feel better.
What’s the difference between flu and a cold?
The biggest difference is that flu comes on very quickly, usually within a few hours. A cold’s arrival is more gradual, and affects mainly your nose and throat whereas flu has a wider impact. If you have flu, you would struggle to get out of bed; with a cold you can usually carry on as usual, including going into work.
Stopping the spread of flu
The flu virus is spread through droplets from the nose and mouth, so good hygiene can help stop the spread. This includes hand-washing and covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing and coughing, then throwing the tissue away.
Having a flu vaccination also provides some protection, and is free to many of those working in care (such as our healthcare staff) and vulnerable people, including pensioners, pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions such as asthma.
If you do succumb, the quickest way to get better is to rest and sleep, keep warm, take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower your temperature and treat aches and pains, and drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.
Above all, keeping fit and healthy will help you fight off infection and speed your recovery, so if you’ve had to take time off work, you’ll be able to get back to it all the quicker.
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