While anyone can get influenza ('flu'), some people are more likely to get very sick, and may be at higher risk of needing hospital care, including:

  • children under 5 years
  • people aged 65 years and older
  • Aboriginal people
  • pregnant women, at any stage of pregnancy
  • people with certain medical conditions including heart disease, chronic lung conditions (including severe asthma), kidney, liver disease, diabetes, obesity, chronic neurological conditions, blood disorders, immunocompromise, and other chronic conditions in children and adults that need regular medical follow up or hospitalisation.

If you are unsure of your risk, speak to your doctor.

Most people recover from the flu after a few days, but for some people it can lead to a severe and life-threatening illness. If you have a medical condition that puts you at greater risk of severe flu or know someone who does, there are simple precautions you can take to help to protect yourself and stop the spread of flu.

Have a plan

Talk to your doctor before you get sick to plan what test to do and what treatment you may need. There are antiviral medicines available to prevent and treat flu. Your doctor can fill out a Pre-assessment action plan for respiratory infections and you can discuss which treatment best suits you.

If you have flu, your doctor will still need to provide a prescription for antiviral medicines but having a plan will help you access antiviral medicines quickly and easily. See Factsheet COVID-19 and flu antiviral medicines for further information.

Get an influenza vaccine (flu shot)

All people 6 months and older are recommended to have a flu shot, and those at higher risk of severe illness from flu may be eligible for a free flu shot under the National Immunisation Program.

To get your flu shot, make an appointment with your doctor, pharmacist of Aboriginal Medical Service. Pharmacists can administer the flu shot to children aged 5 and over. Parents with children aged under 5 years should see their doctor.

Some providers may charge an administration or consultation fee. Ask your doctor, pharmacist, or Aboriginal Medical Service if this applies to you.

Practice healthy hygiene

To protect yourself and others from flu:

  • Stay at home if you're sick with cold and flu symptoms. If you need to leave home when you are sick, wear a mask and avoid contact with people at higher risk of severe illness.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick. Wear a mask if you are unable to physically distance from other people in crowded indoor spaces.
  • Wash your hands often. Use soap and water and wash for 20 seconds. When you can't wash your hands with soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, especially after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and sneeze into your elbow instead of your hands.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces particularly when people are sick.

What to do if you have influenza (flu) symptoms

Most people with the flu have a mild illness and do not need medical care. However, if you are at higher risk of severe illness from flu, have flu symptoms (e.g. fever, cough, body aches, headache and fatigue) and are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your doctor or Healthdirect 24/7 for free on 1800 022 222 for fast, expert advice from registered nurses. Specific antiviral medicines for flu infections are available but these are more effective the earlier they are started, ideally in the first 48 hours of symptoms.

More information

Current as at: Tuesday 16 April 2024