Fight off the flu this influenza season

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Did you know that between 5 and 20 per cent of the Australian population may be infected with influenza this year?

As we head into winter we also find ourselves in the midst of ‘flu season’, a time in which one’s risk of catching the flu is higher and usually lasts from April to October in Australia.

According to FluSmart, it’s estimated that influenza in Australia causes more than 300,000 GP consultations, 18,000 hospitalisations and between 1500 to 3500 deaths per year.

Which is why it’s so important to look after yourself and the health of those around you during flu season.

What is the flu?

The Better Health Channel defines the flu as a highly contagious viral infection that can cause severe illness and can have life-threatening complications for some, including pneumonia.

The flu is spread by contact with fluids from coughs and sneezes, as well as from surfaces contaminated by respiratory secretions. As a result, it’s easily spread and difficult to avoid during the colder months when many people are cooped up indoors and have come down with the common cold.

Symptoms

The effects of the flu can hit suddenly and can last for several weeks. Common symptoms include:

  • The sudden appearance of a high fever (38 °C or more)
  • Body aches, especially in the head, lower back and legs
  • Feeling very weak and tired
  • A dry cough and sore throat

You may also experience other symptoms such as:

  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Aching behind the eyes

Prevention

Minimise your risk to the flu this winter by ensuring you:

  • Get your flu vaccination early. Vaccinating against the flu each year is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself and those around you from spreading and contracting the flu. The best time to get your flu shot is early autumn, to allow time for your immunity to be strengthened before the flu season kicks in (typically around June to September). The vaccine is available to anyone from six months of age and is free for some groups.

    Monash Health offers free flu vaccinations for our staff and patients. To find out more please contact Monash Immunisation on (03) 9594 6320.

  • Practise good hand hygiene. The flu is easily spread through contact with the respiratory secretions of infected people, so it’s important to regularly wash your hands and where possible avoid touching your mouth, eyes and nose to reduce infection.

  • Avoid crowds where possible. Simply put, spending time with large groups of people in a confined space increases the chance of influenza travelling from one infected person and infecting another. By increasing the physical space between you and other people, you’re reducing the virus’ ability to effectively travel and spread.

  • Eat well and look after yourself. Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables whilst getting ample rest will help to keep your immune system strong, increasing your protection against the virus.

Treatment

In most cases, people who are generally healthy won’t need to see a doctor for treatment of the flu. This is because a stronger immune system will work hard to fight the infection itself, and symptoms will usually clear up on their own.

However it’s important to see your doctor if you are at all concerned, and seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following:

  • Symptoms lasting longer than 10 days
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Fever with a rash

For more information about the flu and its prevention and treatment, refer to the following resources: