GET CLUED UP ON FLU
FLU isn’t just a bad cold – it can lead to potentially fatal pneumonia (inflammation in the lungs, caused by bacterial infection or virus) and organ failure. It kills 11,000 people a year, according to the NHS.
This winter, flu hospitalisations in young children are nearly 20 times as high as last year in England, while the incidence rate in Scotland has increased from low to moderate.
But with slower than usual vaccine uptake among two and three-year-olds according to the UK Health Security Agency, health officials are concerned cases may spike further.
Dr Conall Watson, consultant epidemiologist at UKHSA said: “Flu typically increases at this time of the year, so if you are eligible for an NHS flu vaccine and haven’t had it yet, please book as soon as you can.”
SYMPTOMS: Flu symptoms are very similar to those of an awful cold and can come on very quickly.
Signs include a high temperature of 38C or more, body aches, a dry cough, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite and feeling or being sick.
Children can also suffer ear pain and be less active than normal.
With pneumonia, you can also suffer rapid heartbeat, sweating and shivering, feel generally unwell, and in rare cases confused or coughing up blood.
WHAT TO DO: If you rest, stay warm, hydrated and take paracetamol to manage your temperature, flu can usually be treated at home and your pharmacist can help with remedies.
However, speak to your GP if you’re worried about your baby or child’s symptoms, if you’re 65 or over, are pregnant, if you have a long-term medical condition, a weakened immune system or if your symptoms fail to improve after seven days.
And if you get sudden chest pain, have difficulty breathing or start coughing up blood, the NHS says to call 999.
RESEARCH from the US found more heart failure deaths were linked with extreme cold than other cardiovascular problems (like narrow arteries), while researchers from Sweden found the average number of heart attacks per day went up when temperatures were sub-zero.
June Davison, of the British Heart Foundation, said: “Cold temperatures can cause heart rate to increase, an increase in blood pressure, the heart to work harder than usual, blood to thicken and become stickier — increasing the risk of blood clots forming, which can lead to a heart attack or strokes.”
SYMPTOMS: Look out for:
- Chest pain (severe or minor) — pressure, heaviness, tightness or squeezing across the chest
- Pain in other parts of the body — spreading from your chest to your arms (usually left arm but can be both), jaw, neck, back and tummy
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling or being sick
- Extreme anxiety
- Coughing or wheezing
The most common symptom for all is chest pain but the NHS warns women are more likely to suffer shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.
WHAT TO DO: June says: “If you think you might be having a heart attack or stroke don’t hesitate, call 999 immediately.”
GASPING FOR BREATH
WINTER is particularly dangerous for people with asthma and other respiratory conditions.
Attacks inflame airways, causing sufferers to cough, wheeze and struggle to breathe.
Erika Radford, head of health advice at Asthma + Lung UK said: “Forty-five per cent [of people are] set to turn their heating off altogether to cope with the rising cost of living.
“This is a concern as respiratory infections can thrive in colder temperatures and poorly ventilated, damp environments.
“Long-term exposure to colder temperatures and mould can also affect our immune response, hampering the body’s ability to fight off respiratory infections.”
She added: “Winter is already a deadly time for people with lung conditions and the last thing we want to see is more people being rushed to hospital, fighting for breath, because of exposure to the cold.”
SYMPTOMS: Main symptoms of an asthma attack are:
- Worsening symptoms (wheezing, tight chest, breathlessness, cough)
- Being too breathless to speak, eat or sleep
- Can’t catch your breath
- Your inhaler isn’t working
WHAT TO DO: To protect yourself, Asthma + Lung UK said: “Carry your reliever inhaler (usually blue) with you at all times and keep taking your regular preventer inhaler (usually brown) as prescribed.
“Do a ‘scarfie’ — just wrap a scarf loosely over your nose and mouth to help warm up the air before you breathe it in as cold air is an asthma attack trigger.
“It could also be helpful to stick to indoor activities.”
- If you do not feel better after ten puffs of your inhaler, call 999.
- Reports by: Isabel Shaw and Ella Walker
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