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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Flu (influenza)


flu vaccineInfluenza (commonly known as the flu) is very different to a cold but people often confuse the two. Both are caused by viruses but if you have the flu, you become much more unwell. The flu affects your body's respiratory system, which includes your nose, throat and lungs.

When someone with the flu coughs, sneezes or talks, they release droplets into the air. You can catch the flu by breathing in the droplets. You can also catch the flu by touching something (such as a door handle) that has the flu virus on it then touching your mouth or nose.

Some people have a higher risk of getting the flu than others. This includes people over 65, pregnant women and people with ongoing medical conditions. These people also have a higher risk of becoming very unwell with the flu.

Symptoms of the flu

Flu symptoms usually last for five to seven days. They include high fevers, sweats, muscle and joint aches, headaches, lack of energy, sore throat, cough and runny eyes and nose.

Your cough can last for several weeks after your other flu symptoms improve.

Self-care for the flu

Rest and drink plenty of fluids.

You can take over-the-counter medicines like paracetamol and ibuprofen (ask your general practice team or pharmacist for advice) to help reduce your temperature and relieve any aches and pains. Carefully follow the instructions on the label about how much medicine you should take and how often you should take it. It's important not to take more than the maximum dose.

Getting help for the flu

See your doctor if your symptoms get worse or if you're worried. If you have an ongoing medical condition or are 65 or older, see your doctor because the complications of the flu could be worse for you.

Preventing the flu

Having a flu vaccination every year is the best way of preventing the flu. You can get a flu vaccination free if you're 65 or older (or Māori or Pacific and 55 or older), pregnant or have ongoing medical conditions. It's also free for all tamariki (children) aged from 6 months to 12 years.

To help stop spreading the flu to others:

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Flu (influenza) vaccinations

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed May 2022.


See also:

Acute bronchitis

Colds and sinusitis

Eating and drinking when you're unwell

Page reference: 47253

Review key: HIFLU-32471