How many people die from flu each year? Difference between flu and pneumonia explained - how symptoms compare

Flu will often get better on its own, but it can make some people seriously ill

Many people experience flu, colds and chest infections during the colder months every year.

But how many people die from the flu and what are the symptoms?

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Here’s what you need to know.

How many people die from the flu each year?

Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that in England and Wales relatively few people die from flu alone, with an average of 799 per year between 2015 and 2019.

However, when deaths from pneumonia are included this then increases to 28,188 per year on average between 2015 and 2019.

Flu can also cause pneumonia so flu may have led to the pneumonia deaths.

However, the deaths from pneumonia will also involve people who did not have flu.

Deaths due to flu or pneumonia in England and Wales from 2015-2019:

  • 29,885 in 2015 
  • 27,504 in 2016
  • 27,639 in 2017
  • 29,516 in 2018
  • 26,398 in 2019

Abbas Kanani, pharmacist at Chemist Click, said flu can cause “other complications such as pneumonia”, which can then “hike the death rate”.

He said the best way to protect yourself from flu is to get vaccinated, adding: “Especially this year, where Covid rates are set to spike again”.

Mr Kanani said if you have flu it is advised to stay at home this year. Although he said it has not been necessary to isolate in the past, restricting contact with others, including those you live with, “may have to be an option”, depending on how vulnerable people around you are.

“Resting, staying hydrated and replenishing your diet with healthy foods can help you recover quicker,” the pharmacist added.

Cough remedies, paracetamol and ibuprofen are also useful for symptomatic relief from flu.

What is the difference between flu and pneumonia?

Flu will often get better on its own, but it can make some people seriously ill. It is important to get the flu vaccine if you are advised to, the NHS website said.

Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include:

  • a sudden high temperature of 38C or above
  • an aching body
  • feeling tired or exhausted
  • a dry cough
  • a sore throat
  • a headache
  • difficulty sleeping
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhoea or tummy pain
  • feeling sick and being sick

The symptoms are similar for children, but they can also get pain in their ear and appear less active.

Pneumonia is swelling of the tissue in one or both lungs and is usually caused by a bacterial infection, but it can also be caused by a virus.

The symptoms of pneumonia can develop suddenly over 24 to 48 hours, or they may come on more slowly over several days.

Common symptoms of pneumonia include:

  • a cough – which may be dry, or produce thick yellow, green, brown or blood-stained mucus (phlegm)
  • difficulty breathing – your breathing may be rapid and shallow, and you may feel breathless, even when resting
  • rapid heartbeat
  • high temperature
  • feeling generally unwell
  • sweating and shivering
  • loss of appetite
  • chest pain – which gets worse when breathing or coughing

Less common symptoms include: