Advice on managing the flu this winter

This winter, it is likely Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza will continue spreading within the population of NSW, along with other influenza viruses seen each winter. The Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza virus produces a mild illness in most, a severe illness in some, and is a moderate illness overall. This winter it is important you know what to do if you start to develop symptoms of the flu.

What are the symptoms of influenza?

Influenza can produce fever, chills, cough, sore throat, tiredness, and muscle aches, and some people have also complained of vomiting and diarrhoea. Severe cases of influenza can result in breathing difficulty and pneumonia. Symptoms generally appear between two to four days after exposure.

Warning signs of severe illness

Every winter influenza causes severe illness in a small number of people. If you or someone you care for become ill with influenza-like symptoms and have any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care.

Children

  • fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • bluish skin colour
  • not drinking enough fluids
  • excessive drowsiness or significantly reduced activity level
  • being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • development of a rash
  • persistent vomiting

Adults

  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • bluish skin colour
  • pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • sudden dizziness
  • confusion
  • development of a rash
  • persistent vomiting

People who are at an increased risk of severe illness this flu season

People considered to be at higher risk of severe illness from pandemic and/or seasonal influenza strains include:

  • Those with chronic respiratory conditions
  • Pregnant women (especially 2nd and 3rd trimester)
  • People with morbid obesity
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • People who smoke
  • People aged 65 years or older
  • People with certain other chronic medical conditions such as:
    • Cardiac disease (excluding simple hypertension)
    • Diabetes mellitus
    • Chronic metabolic disease
    • Chronic renal or liver disease
    • Haemoglobinopathies
    • Immunosuppression (including cancers, HIV/AIDS, immunosuppressive drugs)
    • Chronic neurological conditions.

If you are in one of the above categories, you should seek urgent medical attention if you develop the symptoms of flu, as you may require anti-influenza medication and it works best if it is given early. Important information is available in the fact sheet - Anti-influenza medications for you and your family

General advice for managing the flu

If you are not at an increased risk of severe complications and you are only mildly unwell, you should remain at home until your symptoms resolve. It is not necessary for you to notify health authorities or receive any prescription medications.

Manage your symptoms:

  • paracetamol will help to reduce fever and muscle aches
  • take plenty of rest
  • make sure you keep your fluids up
  • eat healthy food
  • wash your hands regularly
  • use disposable facial tissues and immediately throw used tissues in a bin
  • minimise your contact with other people
  • watch for the warning signs of severe illness and seek urgent medical attention if these occur.

If you do require medical assistance, you should call or visit your general practitioner, or call Healthdirect on 1800 022 222. In an emergency call triple zero (000) for an ambulance or present to your local emergency department.

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Page Updated: Thursday 12 May 2016
Contact page owner: Communicable Diseases