Questions about flu

Posted on 25 June 2013

Once again this year’s flu virus could lead to high fever and serious chest infections. Dr Dale Cilliers from Mediclinic Panorama answers some frequently asked questions about flu.

Does it help to wash your hands regularly?
‘Definitely,’ says Dr Cilliers. Good hand hygiene could lower your flu risk. The flu is mainly transmitted through particles that are released when someone coughs or sneezes, landing on surfaces with which we have regular contact. By washing your hands often, you prevent these germs from spreading from your hands to your airways.

Why does my doctor sometimes prescribe antibiotics for the flu, and other times not?
Regular flu is treated symptomatically because a flu infection that is purely viral could only be fought by your immune system. However, if the flu causes you to feel seriously ill, you may be susceptible to secondary infections. According to Dr Cilliers, antibiotics are only effective when a bacterial infection is present, or when it’s suspected with a level of certainty.

Could the flu injection make me ill?
You can’t contract the flu from a flu injection, which is produced from deactivated flu cells. Dr Cilliers agrees: ‘There is no evidence that administering the flu injection could lead to a flu-like illness.’ It may, however, cause mild pain in your upper arm at the site of the injection.

I haven’t had my flu injection yet this year. Is it too late to have it now?
If you only have your injection in winter, your chances of being exposed to the flu virus before you build up immunity against it are quite high. ‘The flu injection could be administered later but should ideally be happen at the start of the high-risk period – that is, during March or April,’ says Dr Cilliers. So make a note now already to have your flu injection in time next year.

How can I tell whether I have the flu or a cold?
‘Flu affects the whole body and not just the upper airways,’ says Dr Cilliers. ‘If you experience aching, run a temperature and feel miserable all over, you very likely have the flu.’

Did you know?
Children are two to three times more susceptible to flu than grown-ups – and youngsters also often transmit the virus to others.


The information provided in this article was correct at the time of publishing. At Mediclinic we endeavour to provide our patients and readers with accurate and reliable information, which is why we continually review and update our content. However, due to the dynamic nature of clinical information and medicine, some information may from time to time become outdated prior to revision.

Published in Healthy Life

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