Flu - a young person's guide

Written by: 
Monica Lalanda, an Emergency Medicine doctor. Monica is also a medical writer and illustrator

Flu is an illness caused by a tiny, microscopic living thing called a virusA microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells.. Although it may make you feel very unwell, it is usually not serious and most people do not become too ill with it. It can be a bit more dangerous if you already have another condition that makes your body weaker and more likely to get ill; these include things such as heart problems, diabetes, asthma or other breathing difficulties, as well as being elderly or pregnant.

You may have heard fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. being called swine fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system.. The reason for this is that scientists who carefully studied one fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. virusA microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. realised that this one came from pigs, which makes it a bit more unusual. In fact, there are many types of fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. virusA microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. and they are different every year.

A lot of people all over the world seem to have caught swine fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. at the same time (so it is called a fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. pandemicAn outbreak of infection that affects numerous people in different countries. ) and some younger people without any other conditions have become more seriously ill with it.

It is important to remember that even if it sounds more serious, swine fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. is still just fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system., so most people are fine with it and only very few will get really ill.

How can I avoid catching flu?

When an illness can go from one person to another we say it is contagiousAny disease that is communicable.; fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. is actually very contagiousAny disease that is communicable.. The fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. virusA microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. can travel easily in the saliva when it is coughed or sneezed into the air by an infected person, and can live on surfaces that the person touches. Other people who pick up the virusA microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. can become ill too.

That is why it is so important to cough or sneeze on a paper tissue A group of cells with a similar structure and a specialised function.(and then bin it!) or on the inside of your own elbow so that the little virusA microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. is not flying around or sitting on your hands. The virusA microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. can live on hard surfaces for up to a day, which means that you can catch it by touching everyday objects such as door handles, computer keyboards or telephone keypads where the virusA microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. has landed.

That doesn't mean that you have to stop doing the things that you normally do, but it does mean that you have to wash your hands more often. Also, try not to touch your face with your hands, as the virusA microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. enters our bodies through the eyes, nose and mouth. It is probably a good idea to avoid close contact - for example, shaking hands or kissing - with people who have symptoms.

There is an option to have a vaccine, a special jab, or injection, which can help to stop you from becoming ill with the virusA microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells., but not everybody needs it. If your own doctor thinks you'd be better off having it, you'll be invited to have a jab.[1]

How do I know if I have flu?

Some people who get fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. have very few symptoms so they don't even know that they have it. For most people, however, having fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. means feeling generally run down, miserable and achy, with a runny nose, headache, sore throat and a cough; their stomach might get a bit upset and they might have a fever too.

It's possible to have all or just some of these symptoms. Flu normally lasts for just a few days or perhaps up to a week, but you might still feel a bit tired for a few more days after that.[2]

What should I do if I get flu?

If you are feeling unwell, it’s sensible to stay at home and keep away from school or college until all of your symptoms have gone – this is probably the best way to avoid spreading the virusA microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. around.

Drink plenty of fluids and take medicines that might make you feel more comfortable and, at the same time, keep your temperature down. Medicines such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can be bought without a prescription (a doctor's note). Remember that only adults should handle them; even the most simple medicines can you make you very ill if you take the wrong amount. Flu symptoms might last up to a week, but most people start to feel better after a couple of days.

There is always a tiny chance that what you think is fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. is really something more serious (just because everyone talks about fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. doesn't mean that every illness with similar symptoms is fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system.!). Also, simple fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. can sometimes become complicated and more serious. If you think it is just fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. and you are normally healthy, you don't really need to see a doctor, but if you get any of the following symptoms, you need to be checked up soon:

  • a severe headache that doesn't go away with the medicine
  • a neck that feels unusually sore or stiff
  • spots, a rash, or a change in the colour of your skin
  • pain in your chest when you breathe
  • shortness of breath and shivering
  • being sick many times
  • other symptoms that simply don't seem to get better.

Even if you are normally well but you have a condition such as diabetes, asthma or a heart problem, it's best to ask your doctor for advice if you get fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system.; your doctor might want to give you a special (antiviralA substance that acts against viruses, for example and antiviral drug.) medicine that can sometimes shorten the length of time the symptoms last.[3]

Do not let the words ‘fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system.’ or ‘swine fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system.’ frighten you. Flu is usually just a mild illness and most people who get it are perfectly well and back to normal within a few days.

References: 
  1. 'Swine fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. - everything you need to know.' Directgov. Link
  2. 'Important information about swine fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system..'  NHS Choices. Link
  3. 'Influenza symptoms.' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Link