PEOPLE who think they have flu are urged to help health services by not attending A&E at hospitals.
With continued high demand for NHS services across the region, NHS North East is reminding people how to access the right help and support if they are ill.
The appeal comes as A&E departments continue to see a high number of people suffering heart and chest problems, as well as injuries caused by slips, trips and falls, and as critical care units across the region continue to treat those seriously ill with flu.
Dr Tricia Cresswell, deputy medical director at NHS North East, said: "If you think you may have flu (high temperature, headache, muscular pains) and are normally fit and healthy, the best thing to do is stay at home, rest, drink plenty of water and take paracetamol-based cold remedies.
"If symptoms are worsening after two to three days, then contact your local GP by phone. Please do not go to A&E if you suspect you have flu.
"If you think you have flu and are pregnant, or in an at risk group, and have not been vaccinated, please contact your GP surgery or GP out-of-hours service as you may need treatment with antiviral drugs.
"Young children may have a high temperature due to a number of different causes. If you are concerned you should contact your GP in the usual way."
People are being urged to select the most appropriate NHS service if they fall ill or become injured:
Self-care – for minor illnesses, combine over-the-counter medicines NHS Direct – can answer any health questions, around the clock, and help to find services;
Pharmacist/chemist – for advice on illnesses and the right medicines;
GP and GP out of hours services – for medical advice, examinations and prescriptions for illnesses you cannot shake off;
NHS walk-in centre/Urgent care centre – for treatment of minor illnesses or injuries, without an appointment. People living in County Durham and Darlington can now call 111 when they need help fast, but it is not a 999 emergency
Accident and emergency or 999 – only for critical or life-threatening situations
Dr Cresswell added: "By choosing the most appropriate service for the seriousness of their symptoms, everyone can play their part and means we can ensure those who are most seriously ill and in need of urgent hospital-based treatment receive that care as soon as possible."