Flu symptoms: The unexpected item that could trigger the highly infectious winter illness

Flu symptoms can come on very quickly and include a temperature of 38C or above, an aching body, feeling tired or exhausted, a headache, loss of appetite, diarrhoea or tummy pain, and feeing sick and being sick. The flu jab can reduce a persons risk of catching flu, as well as spreading it to others.

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Hospitalisations for flu are ten times higher than last year’s, according to Public health England’s latest figures.

But while health officials are urging people eligible for the flu jab to come forward, a medical expert has revealed a dirty phone screen could be the cause of flu symptoms.

Dr Shikha Pitalia, GP and director at Pall Mall Medical told The Mirror: “The average Brit checks their phone every 12 minutes when they’re awake and coupling this with poor hand hygiene and a dirty smartphone screen creates the perfect storm for many of us to pick up the flu this winter.

“Flu can be a serious condition, particularly for children, pregnant women and the elderly and we should all be taking simple yet effective steps in order to minimise the risk of us contracting or spreading the virus.”

Dr Pitalia’s team found phone screens can contain a range of nasty bugs, including those responsible for the common cold and flu, as well as pneumonia, strep throat, gastroenteritis and diphtheria.

They also found the average smartphone can carry 10 times as many germs as the typical toilet seat.

To prevent getting ill from your phone, it’s advised you swipe your phone screen with a microfibre cloth regularly, and use disinfectant wipes to keep the rear of the smartphone clean.

Dr Pitalia added: “For a deeper, more effective clean, apply a homemade solution of 60 percent water and 40 percent rubbing alcohol to the cloth before wiping the screen to kill as much unwanted bacteria as possible.”

How to prevent flu with the flu jab

Experts advise people get the flu vaccine before the start of flu season (December to March), but it can still offer protection if you get it now.

The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to people who are at risk to help protect them against catching flu and developing serious complications.

The NHS says you should have the flu vaccine if you:

  • Are 65 years old or over
  • Are pregnant
  • Have certain medical conditions
  • Are living in a long-stay residential care home or another long-stay care facility
  • Receive a carer’s allowance, or you’re the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill

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The health body adds: “Frontline health and social workers are also eligible to receive the flu vaccine. It’s your employer’s responsibility to arrange and pay for this vaccine.

“You may also be able to have the flu vaccine at your GP surgery or a local pharmacy offering the service if you’re a frontline health or social care worker employed by a registered residential care or nursing home, registered homeware organisations, or hospice.”

The flu vaccine is also free on the NHS for:

  • Children over the age of 6 months with a long-term health condition
  • Children aged two and three years on 31 August 2019 (that is, born between 1 September 2015 and 31 August 2017)
  • Children in primary school
  • Children aged between six months and two years who are eligible for the flu vaccine will receive an infected flu vaccine.

Children eligible for the flu vaccine aged between two and 17 will usually have the flu vaccine nasal spray.

How to avoid flu spreading

There are a number of things you can also do to avoid flu spreading.

It’s important to remember flu is highly infectious and easily spread to other people. You’re more likely to give it to others in the first five days.

Flu is spread by germs from coughs and sneezes which can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours.

The NHS says to reduce the risk of flu spreading:

  • Wash your hands often with warm water and soap
  • Use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze
  • Bin used tissues as quickly as possible

People with flu should start to feel better in about a week.

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