Flu, colds and sore throats

Flu (also known as influenza) is a disease of the lungs and upper airways caused by infection with a flu virus. The virus spreads in the lungs and airways. There are three flu viruses, known as A, B and C.

The main symptoms are a high temperature that comes on quickly with general aches and pains. There is often a loss of appetite, nausea and a harsh dry cough. For most people symptoms peak after 2-3 days, and they begin to feel much better with-in 5-8 days, although a cough and general tiredness may last for 2- 3 weeks..

For information on Swine Flu click here


Helpful hints and tips on how to help yourself survive and manage the flu or a sore throat


Here are some useful tips:

  • Flu is caused by a virus, spread by droplet infection. By Coughs and sneezes from people who have caught the virus and it can spread very rapidly. It is much more than a heavy cold. Antibiotics will NOT get rid of flu. (They are used to treat bacterial infections) There are rare exceptions, e.g. when flu is complicated by chest infections.
  • Flu usually starts suddenly.
  • Typical symptoms include a high fever, aching limbs, sore throat, cough and general weakness. Generally you feel terrible and if you've never had actual flu before (as opposed to a heavy cold) you feel completely washed out and unable to function.
  • I'm afraid I can't make you actually feel better but what I can say is "give in, go to bed thereby preventing your germs spreading to yet another person". Crucially give yourself permission to be ill. Do not struggle on. The quality of your work is likely to be well below your norm. You are also likely to recover more quickly if you go to bed to rest and sleep.
  • If you live alone, tell a friend or neighbour so that they can check on you, bring in some food and hot drinks.
  • Drink plenty of non-alcoholic drinks : Hot Lemon and honey, ribena/blackcurrent, elder flower cordial, hot lemon squash - all contain Vitamin C. Try and drink half a pint an hour. If you sleep for long periods of time drink when you're awake.
  • Stay Warm BUT do NOT cocoon yourself in your duvet as that will keep your body temperature high. Lay the duvet across your body so that your feet stick out AND ventilate your room by opening (and keeping open) a bedroom window.
  • Eat what you can but don't worry if you don't feel like eating. You're appetite will soon come back. And when it does, start with soup and toast keep it light but nourishing.
  • A pain killer such as Paracetamol will help relieve the joint aches and reduce your temperature (always follow the instructions on any medicine) You Don't need to buy lemsips or expensive flu preparations.
  • N.B. if you are asthmatic care should be taken using aspirin or any non steriodal anti inflammatory drugs e.g. ibuprofein (Nurofen) because a small percentage of people can become more wheezy.
  • Get as much sleep as you can.
  • If you're feeling nauseous try drinking lemonade or tonic water. Ask a friend to go and buy you some.
  • Don't exercise vigorously!! this may sound strange because I doubt that you've even got the strength to walk to the chemists and back but we have seen some students misguidedly trying to make themselves feel better by going to the gym. It is dangerous to exercise with a fever when your immune system is being compromised.
  • Try steam inhalations made up with care: pour steaming hot water into a deep bowl, place on a secure table, add a few drops of Olbas oil (cheaper than karvol), take a large towel and sit upright in front of the bowl of steam with your face leaning over the steam. Put the towel over your head and let the fringe drape over the outside of the bowl onto the table. Your face is now inside a steam tent, breathe deeply through your nose and let the nasal passages drip to clear that stuffed up feeling. Repeat x 2/3 daily. They make you feel SO much better. If you are at all shaky and unsteady ask a friend to carry the hot water and to empty the bowl when you've finished.
  • Sprinkle Olbas oil over pillows or onto a hanky and keep near your head.
  • Practice normal hygienic disposal of tissues and use a tissue when sneezing and a hand to catch the spray when you cough.
  • Try and reduce the risks to your fellow students and staff.
  • Expect to be ill for about a week to ten days (but don't hold me to that - it could be slightly less or slightly more) and to take a bit of time to recover fully. Help yourself by eating nutritiously as you do recover.
  • The nurses are available during the "drop in" Mon-Fri. 9am-5pm at the Medical Centre. But they would encourage you to head straight for bed. Phone (483193) if you are uncertain about something. Remember rest, sleep, hot drinks and Paracetamol will eventually defeat the virus

However, with luck, and a lot of avoidance tactics you may only be saddled with a cold or sore throat. The difficulty students say they have, is in deciding whether their sore throat is "serious".

Sore throats

Sore throats can be uncomfortable and distressing, therefore knowing what you can do about them is important.

What causes sore throats?

  • Sore throats are caused by infections, i.e. by the rapid growth of small organisms (bugs). In about 3 out of 4 cases these will be viruses, the other quarter being caused by bacteria. Sometimes a sore throat accompanies a cold sometimes it's your only symptom. It is CATCHING.
  • Most get better within a week (unless you've caught something like glandular fever which actually accounted for only 18 of the hundreds of sore throats in the university last year. Please see the leaflet called "tired all the time" for those students unfortunate enough to catch glandular fever.)
  • The pain and soreness can be alleviated by gargling with warm salt water or honey and glycerine.(if you are asthmatic do not gargle with aspirin or disprin).
  • Take Paracetamol, if you have a temperature: the soluble variety can help if you're having difficulty in swallowing.
  • Don't worry if you are not feeling like eating: try soups and hot drinks made with honey and lemon or black current. Remember that if you pour boiling hot water onto these concentrates you immediately destroy some of the Vit C, so add a little cold water first then the hot. Children appreciate ice cream or jelly or ice lollies to soothe sore throats.
  • Sucking a boiled sweet can soothe your throat, there are lots that contain honey and lemon or blackcurrant.

As three-quarters of all sore throats are caused by viruses antibiotics will NOT help. If your sore throat is caused by bacteria, antibiotics will shorten your illness by about one day. Unfortunately it is not always possible to tell which sore throats are which. Big red tonsils covered in white spots are likely to be caused by bacteria, (but can also occur in glandular fever where antibiotics will not work). The same is true of painful neck glands and halitosis. A cough is more likely to occur if the infection is due to a virus. If the doctor does not prescribe antibiotics it is because your infection appears to be caused by a virus and they would be of no use.

If antibiotics are given, finish the course as certain infections have a habit of coming back if the recommended treatment is not completed.


Further Information

NHS Direct 0845 4647

Useful telephone numbers:

Medical Centres
Gipsy Lane Campus 483193 or 242334

Harcourt Hill Campus Surgery 429993

Wheatley Campus Morland House Surgery 872448

CONTACT US

The Medical Centre