With the UK in the grip of one of the worst flu seasons in recent decades, it’s never been more important to take care of your health to avoid catching the virus.
The number of people dying from influenza in England and Wales has reached the highest level since a devastating flu epidemic hit the UK three years ago.
Aussie flu – the H3N2 strain of the influenza virus – is just one of the several strains circulating in the UK at the moment, and symptoms, described as more severe than normal flu, include an aching body, a dry chesty cough and a sudden fever.
Washing your hands regularly and throwing away tissues quickly are some of the best ways of preventing the virus from spreading.
But for those who are unfortunate enough to have got the virus, what’s the best way to get rid of it?
Dr Sarah Jarvis said there’s no cure – we can’t cure viruses – but there are ways to shorten symptoms and make them less severe.
She said: “I recommend plenty of fluids, rest and ibuprofen or paracetamol, or a combination of the two.
“There is some evidence that hot drinks work – partly because they have a placebo effect, but they’ve also been found to have an effect on your saliva production and the moisturisation of the airwaves.
“Steam, hot showers, hydration and drinking more can also be good – being dehydrated can make you prone to complications.”
But when it comes to herbal supplements, Dr Jarvis says there is very limited evidence that these will help you get rid of it.
She added: “There is some evidence that vitamin D will help you get rid of cold and illnesses, possibly flu.
“There is some evidence that if you are an athlete taking a vitamin C supplement may reduce your risk of getting a cold. But for the vast majority of people we just recommend you get vitamin C through diet – so plenty of fruit and veg, fruit juice (one 150ml glass a day).”
When it comes to cough medicines, Dr Jarvis reveals this isn’t really something GPs can prescribe.
She said: “The only thing I’ve been able to prescribe for years is glycerol syrup, which is basically sugar and water.
“Your pharmacist on the other hand has got access to dozens of alternatives and really, if I’ve got one piece of advice, make the pharmacist your friend.
“If you’ve really got flu then get someone else to go visit the pharmacist for you and explain your symptoms.
“But if you’ve got a cough or cold the pharmacist will be able to advise you on things like ‘is it for a dry cough’ – so for a dry cough you ant something that soothes the airwaves and reduces that temptation to cough.
“If it’s a mucus cough, it’s very important to know that green mucus does not mean you have a bacterial infection – it does not mean you need antibiotics.
“But if you’ve got COPD – a chronic lung condition – and you start to produce more mucus you must either take the course of antibiotics or you go see your doctor.”
For those looking forward to the end of flu season, Dr Sarah Jarvis says it’s likely the virus could stick around until March.