Flu may be a common winter illness, but this year the UK is braced for a more serious outbreak than usual – as well as some fatalities.
The NHS have warned that GPs and hospitals should be prepared for added pressure in the coming months after the Aussie flu left Australia with its worst flu season for 50 years.
With dozens of deaths across Australia in recent months – including an eight-year-old girl from Melbourne and a mum-of-two from Canberra – there are concerns that strains of flu heading our way could be particularly deadly.
In the UK, around 600 people often die every year from complications of flu, such as pneumonia.
However, Dr Michael Barnish, specialist doctor in micronutrition and Medical Director for REVIV UK, explained that most people – particularly if fit and healthy – should not be concerned if they catch it.
“In modern times it is more rare to die of the flu, particularly with good recognition of symptoms and timely medical attention,” he said.
“In fact in most cases of death and influenza infection, it has been the secondary bacterial infection that has caused the death.
“Individuals with the flu can be susceptible to contracting a more serious bacterial infection, for example pneumonia, and it is this bacterial infection that can lead to fatality.”
He explained that this was more likely in certain vulnerable individuals.
“High risk groups should always seek medical attention earlier to rule out these more serious complications,” said Dr Barnish.
“These include people that have respiratory diseases already, including emphysema and asthma, the elderly or people recognised to have poor immunity, including those with diabetes and serious neurological conditions.
“Individuals that smoke or have poor nutritional variety in their diet are likely to be at more risk of developing these more serious complications.”
Higher risk individuals should get medical attention if they are showing symptoms such as breathing issues, producing green or yellow phlegm, fainting or preventing fluid intake.
For everyone else, the flu can normally be managed at home with over the counter products.
“Symptom relief is done with pain relief, anti-temperature drugs and anti-inflammatories to help to make the individual more comfortable,” said Dr Barnish.
“This again can be done with traditional methods such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
“Always seek advice from pharmacist or doctor to see if you can tolerate these medications.”
Dr Barnish said protecting yourself from getting flu in the first place was the best option.
“There are a few ways to really protect yourself from flu and arm your body with the necessary defence it needs to stop the influenza virus from taking hold of the body,” he explained.
“The first is the flu jab, which exposes the predicted most common forms of the influenza virus into the body in a very small safe amount so that your immune system can recognise these common types and be prepared with antibodies if infection occurs during the winter.
“Certain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants will help to help your immune system reach optimum function.
“The main defenders are vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc and the antioxidant glutathione. These can all be found in a variety of foods, mainly plant based.
“Vitamin C rich foods include citrus fruits, peppers, spinach, kiwis and broccoli. Zinc can be found in beans, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds. Vitamin E is abundant in avocado, spinach, almonds and sweet potatoes.
“Glutathione is a master antioxidant that helps to maintain cell health and essential to keep cells working at an optimum. Foods fantastic for glutathione production are garlic, parsley, asparagus and spinach.”