Flu is a common respiratory illness that occurs mainly during the winter months when the days get shorter and the temperatures begin to drop. It is thought to affect around 1 billion people worldwide every year. Flu is caused by influenza viruses that enter through the nose and mouth, causing symptoms such as high temperature, sore throat, coughing and headaches as well as vomiting, diarrhoea, aching muscles and extreme tiredness.
If you want to avoid being affected by this year, it is helpful to know when the flu season starts, and what you can do to avoid catching the virus.
When is flu season?
Flu is more active in winter as the cold air helps preserve viruses and reduces mucus clearance, and as people spend more time together indoors, viruses spread more easily. Should someone have the flu virus, close contact in unventilated rooms can heighten the risk of transmission to other people.
So, when exactly can you expect the flu season to start and end?
When does flu season start in the UK?
In the UK, flu season is generally between October and March, though this is dependent on the outdoor temperature too. The colder the weather, the further the virus can travel and the longer it survives on the droplets of fluid expelled via coughs or sneezes.
When does flu season end?
Generally, flu will become less virulent as the weather warms up from March onwards. However, the virus can still travel in warmer temperatures, so you could catch it as late as May.
Can you catch the flu in the summer?
Flu can be contracted during the summer months if you come into contact with someone who is contagious. However, the risk of transmission is reduced, as in the summer people spend more time outdoors, and people also have increased Vitamin D levels produced by exposure to sunlight which could boost the immune system to ward off flu.
Flu can sometimes be mistaken for a common cold, which can also be caught at any time of year, despite its name.
Can you get the flu more than once in a season?
Yes, it is possible to catch the flu more than once in a season. This is because there is a family of viruses that can cause flu.
There are three main types of flu viruses responsible for causing outbreaks in humans. These types can have multiple strains, which circulate at the same time, so while you would be very unlucky to get the flu twice in one winter, it is possible.
How to avoid catching flu
To protect yourself as much as possible, you should aim to get your vaccination before the season starts, during September or October. This will give your body enough time to build up antibodies prior to the flu season. However, you can still get the vaccine throughout the flu season up to the end of March.
As the flu virus changes from year to year, you need to be revaccinated annually to protect from infection.
Other ways to protect yourself from the flu virus include:
- Washing your hands regularly
- Staying away from family or friends who have flu
- Opening doors and windows when in an enclosed space with others
- Wearing a face covering – despite this no longer being a legal requirement under COVID-19 regulations, it is a good safety measure that helps to protect you from both contracting and spreading germs.
If you are yet to get your flu vaccine, Find you local Day Lewis Pharmacy today.