Flu – what you should consider when you are sick

Fever, cough, muscle pain
How to get rid of the flu if you get it

Anyone who suddenly lies flat with a fever and a headache and muscle aches has probably caught the flu.

© Maurizio Gambarini / DPA

This year, the flu epidemic started much earlier than usual. But what should sick people consider if they have been infected with influenza viruses?

Everyone is sniffling and coughing at the moment. The flu wave started unusually early this year. Anyone who becomes infected with influenza becomes ill very suddenly and usually suffers from fever, a dry cough and headache. What needs to be considered in order to get rid of the virus quickly.

How can you recognize the flu?

The main feature of the flu is that you suddenly feel sick. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the first symptoms such as fever, headache and muscle pain appear just one to two days after infection with the influenza virus. A dry, hacking cough often sets in a little later. Joint and back pain and sore throat also occur. About a third of those affected have these typical symptoms, a third have milder symptoms like those of a cold and a third develop no symptoms at all.

The severity of the disease can vary greatly. A common complication of the flu is pneumonia. Middle ear infections can also develop in children. In rare cases, inflammation of the brain or heart muscle can also occur.

How long does it take to recover from influenza?

If the course is uncomplicated, the symptoms subside within five to seven days. The cough in particular can be persistent and last two to three weeks. Some sufferers also feel listless for longer. But the duration of the disease is individual and it can take some time for the body to recover from the viral disease.

What should sick people pay attention to?

The most important thing is to rest. The body needs its strength to fight the virus. So that means staying at home and staying in bed. According to the RKI, sick people are contagious for around a week on average – they should avoid contact with other people during this time. The US health authority CDC recommends only going out again if you have been fever-free for 24 hours. Exceptions are, of course, going to the doctor’s office, if necessary. Anyone going out should wear a mask to protect other people.

Sick people should avoid strenuous activities, sports or smoking. It is also important to ventilate the sick room regularly and to provide fresh air. It is good for the immune system and ensures that the number of potentially contagious droplets in the air is reduced. There is no need to take medication if you have the flu. However, they can help to alleviate the symptoms. Painkillers containing paracetamol or ibuprofen can be used to reduce fever and reduce pain. Inhaling can clear your nose, and gargling with a salt water solution or sage tea can soothe a sore throat. Used handkerchiefs should be disposed of immediately and not thrown around in the apartment – otherwise they can spread viruses. It is also important to pay attention to cell phone hygiene.

The RKI recommends taking your temperature regularly to see if the disease is getting worse.

When is a visit to the doctor advisable?

People with a high risk of a severe course, i.e. older people over 60 years of age, pregnant women and people with a weakened immune system, should contact their family doctor immediately. In individual cases, it may make sense to use antiviral medication. However, these must be administered within the first two days of illness in order to be able to prevent a severe course. Sick people should inform the team about the respiratory infection before visiting the doctor’s office – this can avoid infecting other patients there. Even those who do not belong to a risk group should see a doctor if they have certain symptoms. According to the US health authority CDC, you should have the symptoms clarified by a doctor if you have these warning signs:

  • Difficult, rapid breathing or shortness of breath
  • Breath-dependent pain or tightness in the chest or abdomen
  • Persistent dizziness, confusion, the sick person is difficult to wake up
  • seizures
  • No urine output for several hours
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Feelings of weakness or restlessness
  • aggravation of chronic diseases
  • When symptoms flare up again that have already gotten better

How should sick people behave after the acute phase of the flu?

After an infection, take it easy, advised Dr. Heinz-Wilhelm Esser in conversation with the star. Because: Whether Covid-19 or the flu – after a viral infection, the body still needs some time to fully recover, even after the symptoms have subsided. But it should go uphill day by day. Sport should not be started again immediately after the illness either: “The rough rule of thumb is a seven to ten day break after the symptoms have completely subsided,” said the doctor.

How can you protect yourself from (re)infection?

Influenza is transmitted via droplets that can be emitted when a sick person coughs or sneezes. But the viruses can also stick to doorknobs, the handrail in the bus or railings and be passed on through our hands.

Thorough hand washing is therefore important to protect yourself. For example, anyone who has just touched the handles in the subway should first wash their hands before touching their eyes, mouth or nose. Wearing a mask protects against infection.

The best protection against severe influenza is the flu vaccination. The Standing Vaccination Commission advises everyone over the age of 60 to be vaccinated. Vaccination is also recommended for pregnant women and immunocompromised people. The chief virologist of the University Medicine Essen advised in conversation with the star young people to think about getting a flu shot this year.

Sources:RKI,CDC, BzGA

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