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Flu, short for influenza, is a common viral illness, and it is infectious. It can be spread by coughing and sneezing, or contamination. It is not a cold.

Flu symptoms normally last for a week and include;

sudden high temperature
general aches and pains
a sore throat
loss of appetite
feel nauseous
Flu can make you feel very ill. Most people don’t need to see a doctor if they have flu symptoms, instead they are advised to stay at home, rest, keep warm and drink lots of water. Tablets like paracetamol and ibuprofen can be taken to lower temperature and reduce aches.

Some people have a higher risk of getting serious complications from flu.

People over 65
Pregnant women
People who have a long-term medical condition (for example diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease)
People who have a weak immune system
These people should see a doctor if they have flu symptoms because their risk of flu developing into a chest infection (or similar) is high.

A doctor may prescribe ‘antiviral medicine’ because flu is a virus. They will not prescribe antibiotics as antibiotics treat bacteria.

If you have flu, help prevent it spreading by

Washing your hands regularly
Cleaning surfaces such as telephones, keyboards and door handles
Putting used tissues in the bin straight away These BSL health clips were made by SignHealth with help and information from the NHS. For more information or advice, visit NHS Choices Flu page