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Flu

Stay at home

If you have a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste, it could be coronavirus.

Stay at home and get advice from the 111 coronavirus service.

You can often treat the flu without seeing a GP and should begin to feel better in about a week.

Check if you have flu

Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include:

  • a sudden fever – a temperature of 38C or above
  • an aching body
  • feeling tired or exhausted
  • a dry cough
  • a sore throat
  • a headache
  • difficulty sleeping
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhoea or tummy pain
  • feeling sick and being sick

The symptoms are similar for children, but they can also get pain in their ear and appear less active.

Telling the difference between cold and flu

Cold and flu symptoms are similar, but flu tends to be more severe.

Differences between cold and flu
Flu Cold
Appears quickly within a few hours Appears gradually
Affects more than just your nose and throat Affects mainly your nose and throat
Makes you feel exhausted and too unwell to carry on as normal Makes you feel unwell, but you're OK to carry on as normal (for example, go to work)

How to treat flu yourself

To help you get better more quickly:

  • rest and sleep
  • keep warm
  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower your temperature and treat aches and pains
  • drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration (your pee should be light yellow or clear)
Information:

If you have a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste, it could be coronavirus.

Stay at home and get advice from the 111 coronavirus service.

A pharmacist can help with flu

A pharmacist can give treatment advice and recommend flu remedies.

Be careful not to use flu remedies if you're taking paracetamol and ibuprofen tablets as it's easy to take more than the recommended dose.

Information:

Do not go to a pharmacy if you have a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste, it could be coronavirus.

Ask someone to go for you if you can.

Urgent advice: Contact NHS 111 if you need medical help

Only call 111 if you cannot get help online or you need help for a child under 5.

Antibiotics

GPs do not recommend antibiotics for flu because they will not relieve your symptoms or speed up your recovery.

Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E if you:

  • develop sudden chest pain
  • have difficulty breathing
  • start coughing up blood

How to avoid spreading the flu

Flu is very infectious and easily spread to other people. You're more likely to give it to others in the first 5 days.

Flu is spread by germs from coughs and sneezes, which can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours.

To reduce the risk of spreading flu:

  • wash your hands often with warm water and soap
  • use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze
  • bin used tissues as quickly as possible
See how to wash your hands correctly
Media last reviewed: 30 March 2020
Media review due: 30 March 2023

How to prevent flu

The flu vaccine reduces the risk of catching flu, as well as spreading it to others.

It's more effective to get the vaccine before the start of the flu season (December to March).

Find out if you're eligible for the free NHS flu vaccine

Flu vaccination and side effects for adults

Flu vaccination and side effects for children

Page last reviewed: 6 August 2019
Next review due: 6 August 2022