WINTER is coming and as it does more of us will be struck down with cold and flu like symptoms.
A&E doctor and former Love Island contestant Dr Alex George has urged people to take the flu seriously this winter.
It comes after high street retailer Boots had to suspend its Winter Flu programme after increasing demand as more people than ever before flock to get their jab.
The government had previously promised 30 million free flu jabs for people up and down the country in order to prevent a second wave of the coronavirus and to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed this winter.
Speaking to The Sun, Dr Alex said the flu is not just common in the elderly and said he has seen people coming into A&E with flu like symptoms over recent weeks.
He said: “Over the winter months it’s much more prevalent as we are closer together.
“Around 17,000 people a year die from the flu and while it’s more common in the elderly and vulnerable, it can happen at any age.”
Dr Alex said parents need to be aware that their kids can get the flu too.
“It’s important that we encourage people to go and get the vaccine, it really can help.
“People think the cold and flu can overlap but the cold is caused by a group of viruses that affect the nose”.
He added that the flu is caused by influenza viruses that can hit both young kids and adults.
Dr Alex said: “In A&E young people are coming in very sick with the flu, it’s not just for the elderly, one in ten people don’t realise that you can actually die from the flu, so it’s something that needs to be taken seriously”.
Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed that the flu has killed more people than Covid-19 in recent weeks.
Dr Alex highlighted the symptoms of the flu and said people may often “not feel themselves” if they are suffering with the winter flu.
“Symptoms generally include all over body aches, having a high fever above 38 degrees, a dry cough and a sore throat.”
Looking specifically at symptoms in kids and Dr Alex said kids will usually have a lot of muscle pain and will become quite irritable if they have the flu.
Dr Alex was keen to highlight that some flu symptoms can cross over with Covid-19.
He added: “Symptoms such as a dry cough and a fever, these are common in winter months.
“If you think you might have the coronavirus it’s important to isolate and get a test.
“Then you can determine whether you have it and if you need to isolate or distinguish that it is a cold or the flu”.
Dr Alex highlighted that while some symptoms can resemble the coronavirus, he added that it’s likely flu symptoms will differ from person to person.
“Some people can have an upset stomach with the flu.
“With kids, what I would say is that you know your child best. Look out for changes in their behaviour, changes in fever and how irritable they are.
“Adults are a lot more tolerant than kids, some will have a fever or a cough, but there are a lot of shared symptoms”.
Top tips to keep your immune system fighting fit agaisnt illness
Dr Alex George said that keeping a healthy lifestyle is key keeping illnesses such as the flu at bay.
Speaking to The Sun, food science and nutrition specialist at Human Food said a healthy balanced diet is required for the body to function properly.
“Good nutrition is important for a number of reasons that we often overlook.
“Infact, the most common diseases in society, including heart disease and diabetes are directly linked and can be reversed by good nutrition and eating a balanced diet.
“Good nutrition means eating a variety of nutrient rich plant based foods, such as vegetables, wholegrains and fruits, that are full of the nutrient, vitamins and minerals the body needs to function properly.”
She said you should avoid fat dense, animal products.
“By eating a predominantly plant-based diet and nourishing the body with the right foods, you can expect to reduce your risk of disease, reduce your cholesterol levels and improve your overall health and well-being.
“This includes optimising your immune systems ability to function, improving your ability to fight off illnesses, including bacterial infections and viruses such as the flu.”
Dr Alex said that the virus mainly affects the back of the nose and the throat and said it’s those areas that become inflamed and irritable.
“The flu will generally give you congestion as it works down into the throat and to the chest, which is why it causes symptoms over the whole of the body”.
While the flu is more common in winter months, Dr Alex said people can still catch it in the summer and when temperatures are higher.
Dr Alex said less people are likely to catch the flu in the summer as we are more distanced and not staying in doors or visiting people in their homes.
He added that elderly people, those with asthma and others with underlying health conditions are more at risk.
But Dr Alex said we can “absolutely” protect ourselves from the flu and said measures already in place to help stop the spread of the coronavirus would help.
“Washing our hands and wearing masks will help the flu.
“It’s not the absolute answer but it will help.”
Dr Alex said you should remember to “catch it, bin it, kill it” and said you should always sneeze into a tissue so that you’re not passing on germs to people who are more susceptible to other illnesses.
Dr Alex, who is working with LloydsPharmacy on their campaign to help people better understand the flu, said it’s important that you go out and get the vaccine and added that if you had the vaccine last year – it doesn’t mean you are covered this year.
“People think if they have had the vaccine before then it covers them – that’s not the case, the vaccine is changed each year.
“People worry that if they have the jab then they will get the flu, you shouldn’t get the flu from the vaccine, that’s just not a thing.”
As well as having the vaccine, Dr Alex said there are other things that you can do to protect yourself from the flu.
“Looking after your general health and having a balanced diet is always recommended.”
Dr Alex said that some medical conditions mean you can’t have the jab so it’s important to always check first.”
You should be eligible for the flu jab if any of the following apply to you:
- You’re under 10 or over 65
- You’re pregnant
- You have heart or lung problems, including asthma
- You’re diabetic
- You have a chronic kidney or liver condition
- You have a long term neurological problem, including having had a stroke
- You have another illness
- You have a BMI (body mass index) over 40
- You are immunosuppressed or looking after someone who has immunosuppression
In 2020, the Government is extending the vaccination programme to include those aged 50 and over as well as 11 year olds.
When it comes to keeping healthy in the winter months Dr Alex said looking after your immune system is important.
“Exercise can help your immune system, we are designed to be active, not to be in doors all the time.
“Keeping your lungs healthy with cardio can help and if you aren’t already active then you can build up from walking and do exercises you enjoy.”
He added that a diet rich in vitamins is key and said you should try and eat your more fruit and vegetables.
Dr Alex said that getting enough sleep is also essential.
“People don’t get enough sleep. Those who are deprived by just a few hours are likely to experience a reduction in efficiency in the immune system, especially in the winter months”.
Aside from sleep deprivation, Dr Alex said you should also look at cutting down on the booze.
“In the winter months people are out drinking and booze plays a role in suppressing the immune system.
“If you’re unwell then leave the booze alone until you regain your health”, he added.