Cold & Flu - the facts, who is at risk and how to avoid?

Advice from the hospital authorities in Dublin and the Midlands

Leinster Express Reporter


Leinster Express Reporter


flu cold dublin midlands

It is the cold and flu season

Here are 10 essential facts about colds and flu from the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group.

1. Antibiotics do not work on colds or flu; taking an antibiotic when it’s not needed can cause you some horrible side effects like nausea, diarrhoea and skin rashes.

2. Most adults have two to four colds a year; children can easily get six to 10.

3. A single cold or flu virus can have 16 million offspring within the course of a day - imagine the potential spread!

4. More than 200 viruses are responsible for the cold. The most common are called human rhinoviruses (HRV), and they cause up to 40% of all colds.

5. Rhinoviruses survive for three hours outside of the body, and can sometimes live for up to 48 hours on touchable surfaces, including everything from door knobs and counter tops to shopping trollies and light switches.

6. Colds are spread by touching an infected surface and then touching your nose, eyes or mouth; or inhaling virus-laden droplets in the air after an infected person sneezes or coughs.

7. While a person’s breath can travel 4.5 feet per second, droplets from a cough can travel at 50 miles per hour and droplets from a sneeze can travel (insert shudder here) at up to 100 miles per hour.

8. The droplets from a sneeze can spread for a distance of six feet; a single sneeze can spray 100,000 germs into the air ... which is why you should keep a six-foot distance from a sneezing sick person!

9. The single best way to avoid getting a cold or flu, aside from becoming a hermit, is to wash your hands, A LOT, use soap and wash them in water for 30 seconds. 

10. Make sure to cough into your elbow or better still a tissue then bin it and wash your hands. 

The symptoms of influenza usually develop over a matter of a few hours and include a high temperature, sore muscles, dry cough, headache and sore throat. This is different from the common cold, which tends to come on more gradually and usually includes a runny nose and a normal temperature.

Anyone who gets flu should stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter remedies like paracetamol to ease symptoms. Anyone in one of the high-risk groups should contact their GP if they develop influenza symptoms.

Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough and sneeze, disposing of the tissue as soon as possible and cleaning your hands as soon as you can are important measures in helping prevent the spread of influenza and other germs and reducing the risk of transmission.

If you do have a cold or any other common illness, see – to get advice and get better.

High-risk groups are:

· All those aged 65 years and older

· People including children with chronic illness requiring regular medical follow-up such as chronic lung disease, chronic heart disease, chronic neurological disorders, neurodevelopmental disorders and diabetes

· Those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment and all cancer patients

· All pregnant women. The vaccine can be given safely at any stage of pregnancy.

· Those with morbid obesity i.e. Body Mass Index ≥ 40

· Residents of nursing homes, old people's homes and other long stay facilities

·  Health care workers and carer’s of those in risk groups.

 Those individuals in the ‘at risk’ groups can get the vaccine for free as they are at much greater risk of becoming seriously unwell if they catch flu, with many ending up in hospital.    

Most people, unless they are in an at risk group, will get better themselves at home. 

Advice, tips, information and videos on getting over flu and other common illnesses are available at the HSE website, 

The site was developed by the HSE along with GPs and pharmacists and is a great resource for people to get advice and get better.