High flu season started: How to protect yourself from infection

High flu season started: How to protect yourself from infection

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Fever, headache and Co.: Now protect against flu

Fever, sore throat, headache and body aches: The flu is in high season in autumn and winter. In the cold season, the influenza viruses can spread easily. But there are ways to protect yourself from infection. Not only - but also - through vaccination.

Flu is now in high season

Especially in the autumn and winter months, many people are sick - many think a harmless cold. But be careful: in the cold season, the flu is in high season. Since the symptoms are sometimes similar, the difference between cold and flu is not immediately clear to everyone. Dr. Johannes Schenkel, Medical Director of the Independent Patient Advice Service Germany (UPD), explains in a message how to tell the diseases apart and how to protect yourself.

Difference between flu and cold

“The flu (influenza) is a serious infection that is caused by the flu virus. In the early stages, it can give the appearance of a cold because the symptoms are similar, ”says Dr. Johannes Schenkel.

You can tell whether you have the flu or an influenza infection, among other things, by how quickly the symptoms develop, because a real flu occurs suddenly. In addition, the symptoms are usually more intense.

In addition, flu is different from a cold due to a long course of the disease. While flu usually lasts up to 14 days, a cold usually resolves after a week.

Symptoms of flu are high fever of over 38.5 degrees which often lasts up to a week, sore throat, cough, severe headache, muscle and body aches, chills, and massive exhaustion.

Complications such as pneumonia can make things worse.

In contrast, a mild scratchy throat initially appears when you have a cold. The condition slowly worsens and the sufferer suffers from cough, a runny nose, possibly a slight fever and headache and body aches.

Increased risk of infection in the cold season

"The risk of infection is particularly high in the cold months because the flu viruses are easily spread in a variety of ways," explains the medical director of the UPD.

For example, transmission by droplet infection is possible. The viruses are spread by coughing, sneezing or speaking in the air and / or on surfaces and are absorbed by other people through the mucous membranes.

Flu viruses that stick to objects are picked up by touch and carried on. Thanks to the so-called smear infection, infection is still possible even after the transmitter has long left the room.

The viruses can also get on quickly through direct contact when shaking hands or kissing. As people spend more time indoors, especially in winter, this makes it easier to spread.

Protection against flu viruses

The course of a flu season cannot be predicted. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), it was relatively strong last year with around 114,200 confirmed cases.

In order to protect yourself from infection, it is generally a good idea to strengthen the immune system, to keep away from sick people and to wash your hands regularly.

In addition, one should not cough and sneeze in the hand, but in the crook of the arm or a handkerchief.

Sick people should avoid contact with other people, so as not to infect them.

Significantly reduce the risk of infection

In addition to such measures, there is another way to protect yourself from infection:

"In principle, a flu shot makes sense, since vaccination can significantly reduce the risk of infection - by more than half," says Schenkel from the UPD.

For this, the vaccine has to be adjusted every year. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the exact composition every year. The vaccine for the 2017/2018 season is already available.

“The properties of the flu virus are constantly changing. The annual adjustment of the vaccine responds to the change - this is how the protection should be optimized. So the vaccination should be refreshed every year, ”informs the doctor.

Since the properties of the flu viruses are constantly changing, flu protection is never 100 percent guaranteed.

Vaccination is recommended for certain groups of people

In the past few years, the flu wave mostly started in January and lasted three to four months. If you want to get vaccinated, you should ideally see your doctor in October or November, because it takes up to 14 days for protection against infection.

The permanent vaccination committee (STIKO) recommends the protection of certain risk groups. These include older people aged 60 and over.

But: “Unfortunately, vaccination rates are particularly low for seniors at around 35 percent,” says Prof. Lothar H. Wieler, President of the RKI, in a joint press release by the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA), the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI) and the RKI.

The risk groups also include people with an increased health risk from an existing illness, for example chronic diseases of the respiratory organs, metabolic diseases, liver or kidney diseases or heart or circulatory diseases.

Pregnant women, people with an immunodeficiency, HIV infection and people who are at increased risk of infection through contact with many people should also consider vaccination.

However, patients suffering from an acute infection or febrile illness should only be vaccinated after they have recovered.

Ultimately, everyone has to decide for themselves whether a flu vaccination makes sense.

If you get caught despite protective measures, the main thing to take care of yourself for flu and colds is to drink a lot and to stay in bed for a few days. (ad)

Author and source information

Video: Mayo Clinic Minute: 3 tips to prevent the flu (August 2022).