Are you worried about how to avoid catching the winter flu and want to know what to do if it happens?

We've gathered some helpful tips from the official NHS website on how to avoid getting caught out with a cold.

If you start to feel unwell, the NHS is urging you to not to wait until it gets worse, but instead, speak to a pharmacist. It comes after an appeal from NHS organisations across the North East for people with flu-like symptoms or vomiting and diarrhoea to stay away from the hospital, due to "severe pressure" on services.

How do you catch the flu?

The flu virus is contained in the millions of tiny droplets that come out of the nose and mouth when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes.

These droplets typically spread about one metre. They hang suspended in the air for a while before landing on surfaces, where the virus can survive for up to 24 hours.

Anyone who breathes in the droplets can catch flu. You can also catch the virus by touching the surfaces that the droplets have landed on if you pick up the virus on your hands and then touch your nose or mouth.

How do I know if I've got the flu?

You could be showing any of the following symptoms:

  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above

  • tiredness and weakness

  • a headache

  • general aches and pains

  • a dry, chesty cough

  • Cold-like symptoms, such as a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, and a sore throat

What about preventing the flu?

Did you know - washing your hands with soap and warm water is the best method?

  • Regularly clean surfaces such as your computer keyboard, telephone and door handles to get rid of germs

  • Use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze

  • Put used tissues in a bin as soon as possible.

What should I do?

Keep warm and drink plenty of water!

In terms of taking medication, paracetamol or ibuprofen helps lower a high temperature and relieve aches if necessary.

Stay off work or school until you're feeling better. For most people, this will take about a week.

The NHS website says you should stay off work or school until you're feeling better. This usually takes most people a week to recover.

Should I see a GP?

If you're otherwise fit and healthy, the NHS says there's usually no need to see your GP if you have flu-like symptoms. You should only really consider seeing a GP if...

  • You are 65 years of age or over

  • You are pregnant

  • You have a long-term medical condition – such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease or a neurological disease

  • You have a weakened immune system – for example because you're having chemotherapy or HIV

  • You develop chest pain, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or start coughing up blood

  • Your symptoms are getting worse over time or haven't improved after a week

Want to know more?

Check out this guide on how to stop the spread of flu.