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How can we reduce the spread of the flu?

Don’t want to share your bug? Here’s how to protect those around you.

Stephanie Osfield
April 2018

If you’ve got a virus, such as a cold or flu, you may be feeling tired, have a sore throat, have a cough, or have a runny or stuffy nose. The flu however, causes much more severe symptoms and can be a serious illness.

To prevent spreading the cold or flu to those around you, try these suggestions.

1. Practise good cold and flu hygiene

Cover your mouth with the inside of your elbow when coughing or sneezing and use tissues to blow your nose, then throw them away. Whether you’re sick or not, wash hands regularly using soap and running water and dry them thoroughly, especially after coughing, sneezing or preparing food.

2. Rest up

When you have a cold or flu, stay home from work and social events to allow your immune system to fight off the virus.

Healthline has a handy guide to how long you may be contagious:

Cold: 1–2 days before symptoms start until up to 2 weeks after you’re exposed to the virus.

Flu: 1 day before symptoms start to 5–7 days after you get sick.

3. Consider the annual flu vaccine

The flu vaccine is recommended if you are:

  • aged over 65
  • of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background
  • have a medical condition that predisposes you to the flu
  • a pregnant woman
  • working in healthcare or early childhood education.

The flu vaccine does not protect against all strains of the flu, and won’t stop you from getting a cold.

Managing your cold or flu   

You can relieve cold and flu symptoms with non-antibiotic drugs and treatments if appropriate. These include paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin, saline nasal sprays or drops, steam inhalations and decongestant drugs to dry up a runny nose or relieve blocked sinuses. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice. Many types of colds and flu are caused by viruses, which means that antibiotics won’t help you get better – antibiotics only work against bacterial infections.

If you’re severely ill or are at risk from complications as a result of your flu, such as pneumonia, your GP may prescribe antiviral medication.

If your symptoms take a turn for the worse, it may be time to see your doctor. Healthdirect says you some signs that you should also see your doctor are if:

  • you have an ongoing medical problem such as asthma or diabetes
  • have trouble breathing
  • have chest pain
  • symptoms last longer than 10 days.


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