HSE urging people with cold and flu to steer clear of hospitals

by Rachel Darcy

The HSE is urging the public to help prevent the spread of flu and norovirus by steering  clear of hospitals and GP surgeries.

Dr Vida Hamilton, National Clinical Advisor and Group Lead, HSE Acute Hospital Operations, said: “What we call weather illnesses such as colds, sore throats, coughs and such like, are viral, self-limiting illnesses and can be treated with fluids and analgesia (painkillers).

“Most of these mild illnesses are viral and can be treated by yourself at home. Antibiotics will not work on a viral infection, including flu. Get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids and take paracetamol or ibuprofen for temperatures, aches and pains.”

The flu vaccine is provided free of charge for those in at risk groups, which includes everyone aged 65 years and over, pregnant women, anyone over six months of age with a long term illness requiring regular medical follow-up such as chronic lung disease, chronic heart disease, diabetes, cancer or those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment. 

Dr Hamilton said: “You will know when you have the flu.  It comes on more suddenly than a cold, the whole body is affected, and you’ll experience loss of appetite and energy.  The advice is to stay in bed and rest, take fluids and use over-the-counter remedies like paracetamol to ease symptoms. 

“By venturing out to the GP or Emergency Department, you are not only putting your body through a stressful time, you are spreading the virus to people who may be in at-risk groups.

“Remember, there will be sicker, immuno-compromised, and elderly and frail people at the surgery and in our hospitals, for whom exposure to flu could prove fatal, so think before your head out the door.”

 People can also prevent the spread of flu and norovirus through correct handwashing and covering your cough and sneeze. Other tips from the HSE include:

  • Use a tissue and place it immediately in the bin. Wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer.
  • If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve.
  • Don’t cough or sneeze into your hands. You’ll end up spreading germs to everything you touch.

You can visit www.hse.ie/winter or www.undertheweather.ie for further advice.

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