Flu and you
Flu (influenza) is a contagious (catching) illness of the nose, throat and lungs caused by flu viruses.
Most people recover from flu after a few days but for some people it can very serious or even fatal.
Flu often starts suddenly with fever, dry cough and fatigue. Other symptoms can include headache, muscle aches and pains, shivers, weakness, running nose and sore throat.
Flu complications such as pneumonia can kill – particularly the elderly or people with a chronic illness.
A flu vaccination each year provides the best protection. Read our flu fact sheet
Flu spreads easily when infected people cough or sneeze without covering their mouths and noses or through contact with contaminated surfaces.
The flu virus enters the body through the nose or throat and takes one to three days for the person to start feeling unwell.
People can pass on the virus from a day before symptoms start and for up to seven days after.
Five tips to avoid the spread of flu
- get vaccinated against the flu, especially if you are in a high-risk group
- cover your face when you cough or sneeze and throw used tissues in a rubbish bin. Cough into your elbow if you don't have a tissue
- wash your hands thoroughly and often. Wash hands for at least 10 seconds, especially after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose, or use an alcohol-based hand rub
- stay at home until you're well. Wait at least 24 hours after your fever resolves so you are unlikely to infect other people. Keep sick children away from school and other activities
- call ahead to see a doctor. If you think you or someone you are caring for may need to see a doctor, call first so the clinic can take precautions to reduce the risk to other people.
If you have flu symptoms don't visit people likely to get really sick from the flu, like pregnant women, infants, older people and those in hospital.
Flu and pregnancy
Pregnant women are at higher risk of severe flu infections. Read flu vaccine advice for pregnant women
Flu and children
Every year children die from flu, so watch kids carefully. Read flu vaccine advice for children
A flu vaccination every year in autumn (usually available from March) is recommended for people aged six months and over who want to reduce their chance of catching the flu.
Free seasonal flu vaccine is available for:
- everyone aged 65 years and over
- all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples aged 15 years and over
- pregnant women
- people aged six months and over with medical conditions predisposing to severe flu.
Discuss any concerns you have about immunisation with your GP or health professional.
Flu and the common cold
The flu and common colds both affect the nose, throat and lungs but are caused by different viruses.
In general the flu is worse than a cold and symptoms often start suddenly.
- Cold and flu symptoms can be relieved with warm drinks or lozenges, nasal sprays and paracetamol.
- Rest and make sure you drink and eat enough.
- Antibiotics will not help a cold or flu.
- Aspirin should not be given to children with colds or flu as it can cause serious illness.
For more information visit www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/peh/infectious_diseases/flu or call the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738