The flu (influenza) is an infection caused by viruses. Typical symptoms are fever and a strong sense of illness. If the disease is not severe, the worst is usually over after one week. During this time you can alleviate the symptoms with home remedies such as bed rest, chicken soup and calf wrap. In some cases, a drug treatment is useful. Learn here how to recognize flu, how to treat it and how to effectively protect yourself from the infection.
The flu is caused by the influenza virus, which is in the form of various types. The most dangerous are Type A viruses, which were responsible, for example, for the outbreak of bird flu or swine flu. The viruses usually spread by droplet infection (for example, when coughing or sneezing). A contagion is also possible through direct contact such as when kissing.
Since the influenza virus is very versatile, permanent protection against the pathogen is not possible. For example, a flu vaccine must be repeated every year. It is especially recommended for certain risk groups such as elderly or chronically ill people.
Typical symptoms of a flu
During flu, the following symptoms typically occur:
- The first signs of flu are often chills and a marked malaise.
- Shortly thereafter, symptoms such as fever and headache and body aches appear.
- In addition, complaints such as cough, runny nose and sore throat may be noticeable.
- Those affected usually feel tired, chipped and exhausted.
- With a flu, the fever can rise up to 41 degrees. As long as the temperature rises, chills often occur. As soon as the fever drops, it comes to the sweats also typical of an influenza.
It is typical that the symptoms are relatively sudden and very violent. This distinguishes the flu from a common cold. Because when you catch a cold, the symptoms usually slow down and are less noticeable. The difference between a flu and a cold is therefore mainly in the course and the severity of the disease.
Most flu takes a harmless course and there are no complications. If complications occur, this is usually due to the addition of a bacterial infection in addition to the virus infection. Such a secondary infection can lead to diseases such as pneumonia, otitis media or myocarditis.
There is an increased risk of complications for the elderly, infants, the chronically ill and pregnant women.
If you have caught flu, you must be careful to avoid complications. Because of the infection, the immune system is weakened and thus more susceptible to other pathogens such as bacteria. So that it does not come to a dangerous secondary infection, enough rest to the complete healing of the flu is extremely important.
Course and duration of the flu
The incubation period of the flu is short, it is between a few hours and three days. If the illness breaks out, those affected feel very ill within a few hours.
In a straightforward course, the flu usually lasts about a week. In more severe cases or complications, it can take longer to get fit.
A risk of infection starts from the affected person from the time of the infection and not only after the outbreak of the flu. If the disease has broken out, the risk of infection remains about three to five days long. Children can be contagious for a few more days.
Home remedies for flu
If you have caught a flu, it is especially important that you take care of your body. Also, drink enough fluids - especially if you have a high fever and sweat heavily. Well suited are hot teas in the varieties peppermint, chamomile or linden blossom. You should abstain from black tea, as well as coffee and alcohol.
In addition, the following home remedies are also recommended:
- A freshly prepared chicken soup relieves symptoms such as coughing and runny nose.
- Inhaling also has a positive effect on cough and runny nose.
- Calf rolls can help lower high fever. Apply the wraps but only if the person is warm.
- Gargling can effectively combat sore throats. In addition to salt water, sage tea is also good for gargling.
Treat flu with medication
Flu usually does not need to be treated with medication. In individual cases, however, special antiviral drugs such as neuraminidase inhibitors can be used. They have a positive influence on the course of the disease, especially if they are taken immediately after the onset of the first flu symptoms (within the first 48 hours).
Neuraminidase inhibitors block the spread of viruses and can thus shorten the duration of the disease and mitigate its severity. An antibiotic, on the other hand, has no effect on influenza, as it only works against bacteria.
If you have severe headache or body aches, painkillers can help alleviate the symptoms. Suitable include tablets with acetylsalicylic acid, paracetamol or ibuprofen. Children under the age of 14 should not be given acetylsalicylic acid medications, as they may otherwise experience the life-threatening Reye syndrome.
Prevent an influenza infection
The best way to prevent the flu is vaccination. It needs to be redone every year as the virus is constantly changing. The vaccine is especially recommended for at-risk groups - for example, the chronically ill and hospital staff - as well as over 60 years. These should ideally be vaccinated every year before the start of winter (September to November).
In addition, there are other ways to prevent influenza. It is important that you wash your hands regularly during the flu period. Also, avoid touching your nose and mouth with your hands if you have previously been in contact with viruses - for example in buses or trains, shopping malls or doctors' surgeries.