The symptoms to watch out for as three Christmas illnesses batter UK

Experts warn three illnesses are circulating around the UK in the run up to Christmas.

With the weather taking a colder turn, viruses and other bugs seem to pick up pace. And, with Britons socialising over the festive period, these bugs have more chance to spread.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has described the hike in flu and Covid rates as “unsurprising” as the norovirus remains on the increase, reports The Mirror. In its weekly briefing the UKHSA said there was a “notable increase” in positive results for influenza.

It reports intensive care unit admissions and A&E attendance for flu and flu-like illnesses have also been on the rise. Both flu and Covid, as well as other bugs, are set to cause chaos this Christmas.

But Brits can prevent the spread of disease by practising good hygiene. This includes washing your hands regularly, making sure spaces are well ventilated and not venturing out if you’re ill.

In most regions and age groups Covid is on the up. But ICU admissions remain low for now.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Director of Public Health Programmes at UKHSA, said: “The effects of the recent cold weather and increased socialising indoors in the run up to Christmas are unsurprisingly causing flu and COVID-19 to spread more easily and numbers infected going up further.

“If you are eligible for a flu and COVID-19 vaccine you can still speak to your GP about getting vaccinated to help protect you from these infections. Alternatively, local pharmacies continue to offer both bookable flu and walk-in COVID-19 vaccinations for free on the NHS. Nobody wants to get their new year off to a bad start so be sure to gift yourself the best possible protection against flu and COVID-19 as we head into peak season.

“Pregnant women and those in clinical risk groups are at higher risk of complications from flu but over 60% of these groups remain unvaccinated – so we urge them to come forward. Children aged 2 or 3 years are also eligible for a quick and painless nasal spray flu vaccine, which helps prevent hospitalisations, as well as helps parents from not having to juggle a poorly child with work and other commitments.

“If you are showing signs of a respiratory illness, like flu and COVID-19, try to limit your contact with others as much as possible, particularly those who are more vulnerable.”

With viruses on the up, many will be wondering how they can keep an eye out for illness, especially with Covid tests no longer as prevelant as they were. According to the NHS, the symptoms for Covid are “very similar to symptoms of other illnesses, such as colds and flu.” The following are listed by the NHS as symptoms of Covid:

A high temperature or shivering (chills) – a high temperature means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)

  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
  • shortness of breath
  • feeling tired or exhausted
  • an aching body
  • a headache
  • a sore throat
  • a blocked or runny nose
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhoea
  • feeling sick or being sick

 high temperature or shivering (chills) – a high temperature means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)

  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
  • shortness of breath
  • feeling tired or exhausted
  • an aching body
  • a headache
  • a sore throat
  • a blocked or runny nose
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhoea
  • feeling sick or being sick

The NHS says these symptoms are almost identical to flu. They say the virus can come on “very quickly” with symptoms including:

  • a sudden high temperature
  • an aching body
  • feeling tired or exhausted
  • a dry cough
  • a sore throat
  • a headache
  • difficulty sleeping
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhoea or tummy pain
  • feeling sick and being sick

Norovirus meanwhile is also on the rise, with experts warning anyone suffering from it or any other stomach bug avoids preparing Christmas dinner. Dr Lesley Larkin, Interim Deputy Director, Gastrointestinal Infections and Food Safety (One Health) Division at UKHSA said: “Norovirus cases continue to rise, especially among those 65 and older and in care homes.

“If you have norovirus or any other stomach bug that causes diarrhoea and vomiting, you can take steps to avoid passing it on to family and friends over the festive period. Don’t prepare food for others if you have symptoms or for 48 hours after symptoms stop. Many of us will be travelling for Christmas, but you should avoid visiting people in hospitals and care homes to avoid passing on the infection in these settings. Do not return to work or school once term restarts, until 48 hours after your symptoms have stopped.

“Washing your hands with soap and water and using bleach-based products to clean surfaces will also help stop infections from spreading.”

The main symptoms of norovirus are:

  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • diarrhoea
  • being sick (vomiting)

“If you have norovirus or any other stomach bug that causes diarrhoea and vomiting, you can take steps to avoid passing it on to family and friends over the festive period. Don’t prepare food for others if you have symptoms or for 48 hours after symptoms stop. Many of us will be travelling for Christmas, but you should avoid visiting people in hospitals and care homes to avoid passing on the infection in these settings. Do not return to work or school once term restarts, until 48 hours after your symptoms have stopped.

“Washing your hands with soap and water and using bleach-based products to clean surfaces will also help stop infections from spreading.”

The main symptoms of norovirus are:

  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • diarrhoea
  • being sick (vomiting)

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