Media releases

June 1, 2014

Don't sniff out flu advice online this winter: Health experts warn

An increasing number of Australians are sniffing out flu advice on the internet and on social media, prompting warnings from health experts about the dangers of self-diagnosing and treating illnesses online.

Research by Medibank indicates increasing numbers of people are going online for health advice, and with call volumes related to colds and flu already trending higher this year than for 2013, there are concerns more Australians won't be getting the right information about how to prevent or treat winter illness.

Medibank's Chief Medical Officer, and former GP, Dr Ian Boyd said the tips, advice and sheer amount of information online was confusing, and urged anyone needing advice on how to prevent or treat colds and flu to get professional advice from a credible, reputable source.

"A simple web search for cold and flu advice comes up with a range of different symptoms and cures - some sites even warn of the dangers of flu shots, while others offer less than conventional advice on how to ward off the common cold," Dr Boyd said.

"Preventing and treating these ailments is not rocket science, but people need to get trusted medical advice, and make sure that if their symptoms do persist to make an appointment to see a real-life doctor."

Dr Boyd said the best advice when it came to colds and flus this winter was prevention.

"Simple yet effective measures are the best cure for winter ailments - and the flu vaccine is one of the most successful," Dr Boyd said.

"And don't believe the online myths associated with the vaccine such as it can cause you to get the flu, and that you'll still be protected from last year's shot."

Dr Boyd's Fast Flu Facts:

� Influenza and the common cold are viruses, spread through coughing, sneezing, talking and touching, or by coming into contact with infected surfaces or objects.

� For most healthy adults flu symptoms include fever, headaches, coughing, sore throat and aching joints - but can be far more serious and even fatal, especially for the very young or the very old.

� It can take up to two weeks for your immunity to build up fully after the flu vaccine so it should be taken as early as possible.

� Influenza viruses change regularly and each year slightly different strains appear - therefore having a flu shot every year is essential.

� Plenty of bed rest, fluids, and paracetamol to relieve the symptoms of cold and flu are the best treatment.

� Healthy eating and regular exercise help to boost immunity and are therefore helpful in preventing cold and flu.

� For more information go to:

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