Flu: What helps against the virus infection?

Flu: What helps against the virus infection?

Influenza is an infection caused by a virus. Typical symptoms are fever and a strong feeling of illness. If the disease does not take a severe course, the worst is usually over after a week. During this time, home remedies such as bed rest, chicken soup, and leg wraps can alleviate the symptoms that arise. In some cases, drug treatment is also helpful. Here, you can learn how to recognize the flu, treat it and effectively protect yourself from the infection.

Contagious flu

The flu is caused by the influenza virus, which comes in different types. The most dangerous are type A viruses, which are responsible for the bird flu outbreak or swine flu, for example. The viruses usually spread through droplet infection (e.g., coughing or sneezing). Infection is also possible through direct contact, such as kissing.

Transmission is also possible through direct contact with contaminated surfaces, for example, if a sick person sneezes into their hands and then touches a door handle. If the next person touches this doorknob, the pathogens can reach the mucous membranes via the hand if the person feels their face.

Since the influenza virus is versatile, permanent protection against the pathogen is impossible. A flu vaccination, for example, has to be repeated every year. It is particularly recommended for certain risk groups, such as the elderly or chronically ill people.

Even if a cold is colloquially often equated with the flu, these are two diseases caused by other pathogens. While a cold (flu-like infection) is relatively harmless, a real flu can lead to severe courses and sometimes even death.


Typical flu symptoms

The following symptoms typically occur during influenza:

  • The first signs of flu are often chills and a strong feeling of illness.
  • A short time later, symptoms such as feverheadache and body aches appear.
  • Symptoms such as cough, runny nose and sore throat can also become noticeable.
  • Those affected usually feel tired, worn out and exhausted.
  • With the flu, the fever can rise to 41 degrees. As the temperature increases, chills are expected. As soon as the fever drops, sweating breaks out, which is typical of influenza.

Typically, the symptoms appear relatively suddenly and very severely. This distinguishes the flu from the common cold. Because when you have a cold, the symptoms usually appear more slowly and are not as noticeable. The difference between the flu and a cold is mainly the course and severity of the illness.

During the winter flu season, a doctor can usually diagnose the flu based on the symptoms. For a reliable diagnosis, laboratory diagnostics are required, whereby various tests can be used. A swab is generally taken from the nose.

Possible complications

Influenza usually takes a harmless course, and there are no complications. If complications occur, it is generally because a bacterial infection is present in addition to the viral infection. Such a secondary infection can lead to pneumoniaotitis media or myocarditis. Such a severe course usually shows up about three to ten days after the onset of the disease.

 Older adults, small children, the chronically ill, people with an immune deficiency and pregnant women have an increased risk of complications.

If you’ve caught the flu, you must take it easy to avoid complications. The infection weakens the immune system and makes it more susceptible to other pathogens, such as bacteria. To prevent a dangerous secondary infection, it is essential to get enough rest until the flu has completely healed.


Course and duration of the flu

The incubation period for the flu is short, ranging from a few hours to three days, with the average being one to two days. If the disease breaks out, those affected feel ill within a few hours.

If the course is uncomplicated, the flu usually lasts about a week. In more severe cases or if complications arise, however, it may take longer before you are fit again.

There is a risk of infection from those affected from the moment of infection and not only after the flu outbreak. Once the disease has broken out, the risk of infection persists for about four to five days. Children can be contagious for a few days longer.

Home remedies for flu

If you have caught the flu, you must physically take it easy on yourself. Also, drink enough fluids  – this is especially important if you have a high fever and are sweating profusely. Hot teas like peppermint, chamomile, or linden blossom are well suited. On the other hand, it is better to avoid black tea, coffee and alcohol.

The following home remedies are also recommended:

  • A freshly prepared chicken soup relieves symptoms such as coughs and colds.
  • Inhaling also has a positive effect on cough and cold symptoms.
  • Calf wraps can help bring down a high fever. Only apply the wraps when the person concerned is warm.
  • Gargling is an effective way to combat a sore throatIn addition to salt water, sage tea is also suitable for gargling.

Treat flu with medication.

Influenza does not usually need to be treated with medication. However, particular antiviral drugs, such as neuraminidase inhibitors, can be used in individual cases. They positively affect the course of the disease, especially if they are taken immediately after the first flu symptoms appear (within the first 48 hours).

Neuraminidase inhibitors (for example, oseltamivir or zanamivir) block the spread of the virus and can thus shorten the duration of the disease and reduce its severity. Antibiotics, however, do not affect the flu because they only work against bacteria However, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics if a bacterial infection has developed along with the flu.

If you suffer from severe headaches or body aches, painkillers can help relieve the symptoms. Tablets with acetylsalicylic acidparacetamol or ibuprofen, among others, are suitable. However, children under the age of 14 should under no circumstances be given medication containing acetylsalicylic acid, as otherwise they could develop the life-threatening Reye’s syndrome.


Prevent influenza infection

The best way to prevent the flu is vaccination. It has to be repeated every year because the virus is constantly changing. The vaccination is recommended for risk groups – for example, the chronically ill and hospital staff – and people over 60. They should be vaccinated yearly before winter (September to November).

There are other ways to prevent influenza. It would help if you washed your hands regularly during the flu season. Also, avoid touching your nose and mouth with your hands if you have come into contact with viruses beforehand – for example, on buses or trains, in shopping centres or doctor’s offices.

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