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Flu and norovirus warning issued by health bosses

PUBLISHED: 17:48 21 January 2013 | UPDATED: 17:49 21 January 2013

Ambulance clinicians have issued warnings on how freezing temperatures can make the symptoms of flu and other illnesses seem worse and advised people on how to manage these.

Rob Mackie, from the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST), which provides out of hours doctors in parts of the region, said people with heart or breathing problems may have worse symptoms during a cold spell and for several days after temperatures start to return to normal.

But, as the county continues to shiver in the snow, he said this was no reason to panic by itself and also advised how to cut the risk of catching and passing on flu and norovirus with some simple germ-busting steps.

He said: “If you are generally fit and healthy there is usually no need to see a doctor if you have flu-like symptoms. The best remedy is to rest at home, keep warm and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

“You can take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower your temperature and relieve aches. Symptoms peak after two to three days and you should begin to feel much better after a week or so, although you may feel tired for much longer.”

He said the sudden onset of vomiting and diarrhoea may mean you have norovirus, also known as the winter vomiting bug.

“Norovirus can be unpleasant to experience but it’s not generally dangerous and most people make a full recovery within one or two days without having to see a doctor,” he said.

“However some people, usually the young or the elderly, may become dehydrated and require medical treatment.”

He added that those aged 65 or over, pregnant women, people with a weakened immune system or long-term medical condition such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, kidney or neurological disease should see a doctor if they experience flu-like symptoms as it can be more serious.

The doctor may then want to prescribe antiviral medication but treatment needs to start soon after symptoms have begun.

Tips for avoiding flu and norovirus:

Wash your hands frequently.

Do not share towels and flannels.

Disinfect any surfaces that an infected person has touched and regularly clean surfaces like door handles and keyboards.

Use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.

Put used tissues in a bin as soon as possible.

Managing norovirus:

Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

Take paracetamol for any fever or aches and pains.

If you feel like eating, eat foods that are easy to digest.

Stay at home and don’t go to the doctor, because norovirus is very contagious and there is nothing the doctor can do while you have it.

However, contact your GP to seek advice if your symptoms last longer than a few days or if you already have a serious illness.

Take extra care to prevent babies and small children who are vomiting or have diarrhoea from dehydration by giving them plenty of fluids. Babies and young children can still drink milk.

Don’t worry if you are pregnant and you get norovirus, there is no risk to your unborn child.

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