PEOPLE with flu-like symptoms are being urged to avoid hospitals.

The warning comes as the number of confirmed cases of patients with flu at hospitals in the North-East and Cumbria rises to more than 200. The NHS is directing the message to people who are unwell, have been unwell in the last 48 hours, or have had contact with a person with flu-like symptoms in recent days. They are also advising people to get the flu jab and protect themselves against influenza as figures indicate that flu activity, as measured by a number of different systems, has continued to increase nationally in the last week or two.

Dr Stewart Findlay, chief clinical officer for NHS Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Cold and flu can be extremely unpleasant, but you should start to feel much better within a week or so, but you may feel tired for much longer.

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“You shouldn’t need to see your GP unless they become particularly severe, last far longer than usual or if you have a long-term health condition.

“However, you could speak to a pharmacist about advice on treatments or if you’re unsure about any of the symptoms.”

The plea to use health services wisely and to get the flu jab comes as pressure across the region increases.

Members of the public are being reminded to think before dialling 999.

For advice on staying well this winter, visit nhs.uk/staywell

How to look after yourself if you have flu:

• rest and sleep

• keep warm

• take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower your temperature and treat aches and pains

• drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration (your pee should be light yellow or clear)

To reduce the risk of spreading flu:

• wash your hands often with warm water and soap

• use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze

• bin used tissues as quickly as possible