One of the strains circulating this year – H3N2 – has been dubbed Aussie flu because it is the same strain that recently caused big problems for Australia.
Australia’s 2017 flu season was the worst the country had experienced in nearly a decade.
Experts are waiting to see if similar will happen here in the UK, after a recent rise in cases.
What is Aussie flu?
Every winter there are a few strains circulating and Aussie flu or H3N2 is just one of them. It is an influenza A virus that appears to cause more severe infections in young children and the elderly.
Most people will recover in about a week and won’t need any specific treatment, apart from a bit of bed rest, some paracetamol or ibuprofen and drinking plenty of fluids.
But for some – the very old, very young or people with pre-existing health conditions such as heart disease – flu can be deadly.
What are the symptoms of Australian flu?
The symptoms of most flu, including H3N2, are similar, but different strains can be more severe or contagious than others.
The NHS says flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include:
- A sudden fever – a temperature of 38C or above
- Aching body
- Feeling tired or exhausted
- Dry, chesty cough
- Sore throat
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Diarrhoea or tummy pain
- Nausea and being sick
The symptoms are similar for children, but they can also get pain in their ear and appear less active.
How to treat flu yourself if you have flu
To help you get better more quickly, the NHS advises you to:
People have been urged to get a flu jab to protect themselves from the H3N2 strain.
Those who don’t heed that advice and are diagnosed by a GP may be prescribed an anti-viral medication to treat their symptoms.
People who haven’t been diagnosed but think they have the flu can speak to a pharmacist to find out if there are any over-the-counter medications they can take.
This year’s vaccine in Australia wasn’t as effective as hoped because the virus had mutated, it was reported.
People can prevent the virus from spreading by washing their hands regularly, covering their mouth and nose with tissues or a sleeve when they cough or sneeze, and cleaning surfaces they suspect are infected.
- Rest and sleep
- Keep warm
- Take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower your temperature and treat aches and pains
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration (your pee should be light yellow or clear)
When should you see your doctor if you have flu?
You should see a GP if:
- Your symptoms don’t improve after seven days
- You’re worried about your child’s symptoms
- If you’re 65 or over
- You’re pregnant
- You have a long-term medical condition – for example, diabetes or a heart, lung, kidney or neurological disease
- You have a weakened immune system – for example, because of chemotherapy or HIV
What are the experts saying?
Experts have warned that this year’s strain of Aussie flu could be more dangerous than the 1968 flu pandemic that killed over a million worldwide.
Public health expert Professor Robert Dingwall, of Nottingham Trent University, told BT.com it’s “almost inevitable” that Aussie flu will strike Britain this winter.
He warned: “The reports from Australia suggest the UK might be in for the worst winter flu season for many years.”
Professor Dingwall told the Daily Express that it be the most serious outbreak of the virus since the pandemic 50 years ago.
But Public Health England has said that it is not yet known whether the UK will be hit as hard.
6 Best cold and flu fighting foods
Strawberries, oranges, tomatoes
While experts still can’t agree on whether taking high doses of vitamin C will have any significant effects on cold and flu symptoms. Some studies show that taking vitamin C may actually help prevent the onset of colds and flu.
Studies do show, however, that there a health benefits to eating vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables – three or more cups each day (as the body can’t store vitamin C.
It is vital that you replenish your supplies every day) will act as a general immune-booster.
The trick is to receive the vitamin C via whole foods rather than as a supplement so fill your diet with vitamin C rich foods such as strawberries, oranges, tomatoes and broccoli.
Medical research has shown that chicken soup suppresses the inflammation which causes many cold symptoms.
This miracle-in-a-soup-bowl also thins mucous secretions so congestion in the nose, chest and throat will be alleviated too.
The addition of noodles and vegetables will increase the healing power of the soup as the carbohydrates will help your energy levels.
While the veggies will increase the nutrient levels in the soup, which also boost a struggling immune system.
Good iron levels are essential for a strong immune system and the most efficient way to maintain good iron levels is by eating lean meat.
Not only does it supply a source of iron that is easily absorbed by the body. It also contains good supplies of zinc, another infection-fighting mineral.
So if you’re feeling a little sniffly, eating a piece of lean red meat, poultry (chicken soup perhaps?), fish or shellfish will help you fight those bugs.
Not only do green tea sippers experiences less colds and flu. But their immune systems also produce more cells that fight the bacteria and viruses that cause sickness.
Don’t forget though that green tea does contain caffeine. So if you are considering giving it to your kids, go easy with the “green tea medicine” – one cup a day is plenty and they will still feel the benefits.
The powerful antioxidant properties of garlic have been found to be antiviral so can potentially help prevent colds as well as shorten their duration.
The oily compound allicin (that gives garlic its distinctive smell) works the cold-fighting magic.
And you don’t have to eat garlic in its natural form to see the benefits – garlic supplements such as powder, oil and extracts have the same healing powers.
And you don’t have to go crazy with it either – a clove or two a day is enough to keep the doctor away!
If you have memories of your grandmother spooning out honey when you had a sore throat. You’ll be pleased to know that she really knew what she was doing!
Studies now show that honey can reduce a cough by coating the throat and soothing the irritation.
And in fact, honey is more effective than over-the-counter cough medicines. Buckwheat honey, in particular, is shown to have medicinal qualities.
Don’t forget though, that children under 12 months should not eat honey due to the risk of infant botulism.