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    What flu treatments are there?

    On this page
    1. How can I treat flu symptoms?
    2. How is flu treated?
    3. How do antiviral medicines work?
    4. How can I prevent flu?
    5. More advice about flu and flu prevention

    Flu is a common viral illness that can impact the global population. Most people recover effectively from the virus by resting at home, however there is a range of flu treatments available. You should speak to your GP if you:

    • are aged 65 or over
    • are pregnant
    • have heart disease, diabetes, asthma, lung disease or another long-term medical condition
    • have a weakened immune system
    • have a very high fever together with abdominal or chest pain or an unusually severe headache
    • Any severe or prolonged symptoms

    If none of these apply to you, your body should recover from flu of its own accord. To aid recovery, you should get lots of rest, stay warm and drink plenty of fluids.

    How can I treat flu symptoms?

    There are several things you can do to ease the pain and discomfort. Always consult your pharmacist or GP if you are unsure whether you are safe to take certain over-the-counter medicines. You can take:

    • paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower your fever or for muscle aches
    • a cough syrup if you have a cough
    • a decongestant if you have a blocked nose. Limit the use to a week at a time because prolonged use can worsen the stuffiness
    • get lots of rest
    • drink plenty of fluids

    How is flu treated?

    You do not usually need to treat flu with medicines as your body will normally recover on its own. However, in certain appropriate circumstances prescription antiviral medicines like Tamiflu and Relenza can be used. This would be following an assessment with a clinician.

    How do antiviral medicines work?

    Tamiflu and Relenza work by inhibiting neuraminidase, an enzyme the flu virus needs to spread through your body. The virus is therefore contained in a smaller area of your body, and this makes the symptoms less severe and shortens the length of time you are ill.

    How can I prevent flu?

    The most effective way to prevent flu is by getting the flu jab. This is a vaccination that changes annually, so you will need to get a new one every year to remain protected. 

    You're eligible for a free NHS flu vaccine if you:

    • are 50 and over (including those who'll be 50 by 31 March 2022)
    • have certain health conditions
    • are pregnant
    • are in long-stay residential care
    • receive a carer's allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get sick
    • live with someone who is more likely to get infections (such as someone who has HIV, has had a transplant or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)
    • frontline health or social care workers

    More advice about flu and flu prevention

    Reducing your chances of picking up flu germs will lower your risk of becoming infected. You should:

    • wash your hands regularly with water and soap, particularly before touching your mouth or eating
    • regularly clean surfaces which accumulate germs such as door handles and computer keyboards
    • sneeze or cough into tissues
    • don’t leave tissues lying around, but instead put them into the bin as soon as possible


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