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04 Apr 2012
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Flu (short for influenza) is a common viral illness that is spread via coughing and sneezing. Flu can be caught all-year round, but it is more common during winter.

The flu is different from the common cold in that it is caused by a different virus, and has more severe and longer-lasting symptoms.

  • Exposure to individuals carrying the flu virus
  • Exposure to surfaces that have been in contact with infected virus droplets


  • Sudden fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Muscles that ache
  • Nausea
  • Pain in the limbs or joints
  • Sore throat or sneezing
  • Upset stomach or diarrhoea
  • Dry and/or chesty cough
  • Sneezing
  • Loss of appetite


  • Rest
  • Stay hydrated
  • Keep warm
  • If necessary take paracetamol to lower high temperatures and relieve body aches


  • Wash hands thoroughly
  • Clean surfaces before using them
  • Flu vaccination


If you are fit and healthy there is usually no need to see a doctor. Remain warm and hydrated by drinking plenty of water, and if necessary take paracetamol to relieve fever symptoms.

See your general practitioner if:

  • You are 65 years old and above
  • Pregnant
  • Have a long-term medical condition, such as kidney, heart, lung or neurological disease, or diabetes
  • Have a compromised or weakened immune system




Video: What is the Flu? HealthiNation



Video: The Flu, Dr Harold Standiford, University of Maryland School of Medicine




Ministry of Health – Influenza
HealthEd – The Difference Between Influenza and a Cold
National Influenza Specialist Group
Auckland Regional Public Health Service – Influenza



NHS – Flu
World Health Organization – Influenza 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention



British Medical Journal
Journal of the American Medical Association
The Lancet


FORUMS – Influenza Forum



The information above is of a general nature and is designed to provide you with an overview of the topic, with links to local and international resources that may be of interest. We do our best to ensure that this information is accurate and up to date.

You should always, however, seek specific professional medical advice, treatment and care appropriate to you, and as such we strongly recommend you consult with your general practitioner first.



Updated April 2012
Image source: Wikimedia Commons – Influenza