Dubai: Seasonal flu cases are expected to rise by about 15-20 per cent with changing weather, according to doctors who have advised caution with self medication, especially antibiotics.

An increasing number of residents have been complaining of influenza symptoms like cough, sore throat, aching muscles and joints, accompanied by headache and fever.

Those suffering rush to buy a cocktail of medications including antibiotics and flu drugs in the form of tablets, nasal sprays, sachets and syrups.

Stressing the importance of understanding the symptoms before visiting a pharmacy, Dr Hatem Sulaiman, specialist, critical care medicine at Al Zahra Private Hospital, UAE, told Gulf News that seasonal flu is common with a change in climate, especially as the weather gets cooler.

“It is caused by influenza viruses that are contagious and infect the nose, throat and lungs. The symptoms of seasonal flu include runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, muscle or body aches, fever, and even nausea and vomiting,” he said.

He advised against self medication, explaining that the symptoms are best diagnosed by a doctor to avoid health risks.

“Antibiotics should be avoided without prescription as this can lead to antibiotic resistance in the future. Small doses of paracetamol and antihistamines are permitted if used for no more than two to three days,” he said.

Symptomatic relief

A Jumeirah-based pharmacist Shenoy told Gulf News that residents purchase OTC (over the counter) medication for symptomatic relief. He said, “There are several OTC drugs like paracetamol used to relieve pain [analgesic] and fever [antipyretic], and anti-inflammatory drugs containing ibuprofen to treat aches and pains. People also ask for anticongestants and antihistamines for stuffy nose and allergy-like symptoms.”

According to Dr. Chawki Ghamlouche, primary care physician, internal medicine at Dr Sulaiman Al Habib Medical Centre at Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC), pharmacies should refrain from selling antibiotics without prescription.

He said that by way of caution the pharmacist or patient may not realise that certain formulations in antibiotics could cause allergies and/or sensitivity.

To deal with the high incidence of seasonal flu, he advised residents to get a flu vaccine. He told Gulf News: “It is the right season to get a flu shot. It is intramuscular, which means it is injected into the muscle; this has to be done by a qualified medical professional. It is best to get a flu vaccine once a year. While it won’t protect the person completely from the flu virus, it will decrease the symptoms and duration.”