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Helping vulnerable people to avoid winter flu is a real priority for family doctors at this time of year.

Flu can lead to serious complications for some patients, including older people, young children, and those with pre-existing medical conditions.

Your GP can tell you whether you are entitled to the free flu vaccination, which is available for people considered to be at most risk of developing serious complications.

A relatively recent development is the availability of a nasal flu vaccine for healthy children aged between two and four, and schoolchildren in year one and two.

It’s worth noting that you can still get flu even if you’ve had the flu vaccine.

The influenza virus that causes flu is constantly evolving and flu vaccines are based on predictions about the strain of flu that will be most common that year.

Anyone who has had flu will tell you that it can be nasty, causing aches and pains, fever and fatigue.

Symptoms are much worse than a common cold but people who are generally fit and healthy will eventually get better without treatment.

Patients often assume that antibiotics are the answer but the truth is that they’re no use for treating the influenza virus. Antibiotics will only help fight infections caused by bacteria.

My advice is to use non-prescription pain relief medication such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce aches and pains and fever.

Flu is highly contagious and we’ve all got a role to play in controlling it.

Make sure you always wash your hands and avoid contact with infected people.

Cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing and carefully dispose of any paper tissues you use.

If you are unlucky enough to catch flu yourself, do what you can to avoid passing it on.

New hope for people with high cholesterol

Researchers at the University of New Mexico have discovered what could be an alternative to the daily statins tablets taken by 17.5 million people in Britain to help control high cholesterol.

Dr Bryce Chackerian says patients could in future be given a vaccine that significantly lowers cholesterol and could be more effective than statins alone.

Quit smoking and reduce the risk of oral cancer

In spite of changing attitudes towards tobacco, Cancer Research UK says smoking is still largely responsible for developing oral cancer, the tenth most common cancer in men.

The charity is working with doctors and dentists to help them spot the symptoms earlier.

Quitting smoking and reducing how much alcohol you drink will both help to reduce the risk of oral cancer. The Pharmacy2U Online Doctor service can help with advice on quitting smoking and help in reducing the amount of alcohol you drink.

If you wish to quit smoking, why not start a consultation with one of our online doctors?

Did you know?

There are now many different ways to “see” your doctor. Many GPs offer telephone consultations and some surgeries are considering electronic and video consultations.