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How to get rid of the flu if you have caught it

Coughs and sniffles are everywhere at the moment. Influenza viruses are also responsible for some infections. But what should sick people do if they have caught the flu?

If you are suddenly laid up with a fever and headaches and muscle aches, you have probably
If you are suddenly laid up with a fever and headaches and muscle aches, you have probably caught the

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

Around 8.9 million people in Germany are currently suffering from a respiratory infection, according to the latest weekly report from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). The majority of cases are colds. However, influenza viruses are now also getting involved in the infection process: Influenza has been diagnosed in eight percent of all severe, acute respiratory infections, writes the RKI. What to do if you have caught the flu - an overview.

How can you recognize the flu?

Flu is mainly characterized by the very sudden onset of a feeling of illness. According to the Robert Koch Institute, the first symptoms such as fever, headache and muscle aches appear just one to two days after infection with the influenza virus. A little later, a dry, irritating cough often sets in. There is also pain in the limbs and back and a sore throat. These typical symptoms are experienced by around a third of those affected, a third have milder symptoms like a cold and a third develop no symptoms at all.

The severity of the illness can vary greatly. A common complication of influenza is pneumonia. Children can also develop an inflammation of the middle ear. In rare cases, inflammation of the brain or heart muscle can also occur.

How long does it take to cure influenza?

If the course is uncomplicated, the symptoms will subside within five to seven days. The cough in particular can be persistent and last for two to three weeks. Some sufferers feel weak for even longer. However, the duration of the illness is individual and it can take some time for the body to recover from the virus.

What should sufferers bear in mind?

Above all, it is important to take it easy. The body needs its strength to fight the virus. This means staying at home and staying in bed. According to the RKI, infected 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 not going out again until you have been fever-free for 24 hours. Exceptions are, of course, going to the family doctor's office if necessary. If you do go out, you should wear a mask to protect other people.

Sick people should refrain from strenuous activities, sport or smoking. It is also important to ventilate the sick room regularly and provide fresh air. It is good for the immune system and ensures that the number of potentially infectious droplets in the air is reduced. It is not necessary to take medication if you have the flu. However, they can help to alleviate the symptoms. Painkillers with the active ingredient paracetamol or ibuprofen can be used to relieve fever and reduce pain. Inhaling can clear the nose and gargling with a salt water solution or sage tea can relieve the sore throat. Used handkerchiefs should be disposed of immediately and not left lying around in the home - otherwise they can become a source of viruses. It is also important to pay attention to cell phone hygiene.

The RKI recommends taking your temperature regularly to monitor whether the illness is worsening.

When is a visit to the doctor advisable?

People with a high risk of a severe course of the disease, i.e. older people over 60, pregnant women and immunocompromised people should consult their family doctor immediately. In individual cases, it may be advisable to take antiviral medication. However, these must be administered within the first two days of illness in order to prevent a severe course. Sick people should inform the team about the respiratory infection before visiting the doctor's surgery - this way, infection of other patients can be avoided. Even those who do not belong to a risk group should consult a doctor if they have certain symptoms. Outside of surgery hours, the medical on-call service on 116 117 can help. According to the US health authority CDC, you should have your symptoms checked out by a doctor if you notice these warning signs:

  • Difficult, rapid breathing or shortness of breath
  • Breathing-related pain or tightness in the chest or abdomen
  • Persistent dizziness, confusion, the patient is difficult to wake up
  • Seizures
  • Failure to urinate for several hours
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Feelings of weakness or restlessness
  • Exacerbation of chronic illnesses
  • If symptoms that have already improved flare up again

What should people do after the acute phase of the flu?

After an infection, you should take things slowly, advised Dr. Heinz-Wilhelm Esser in an interview with stern magazine. Because: Whether it's Covid-19 or the flu - after a viral infection, the body still needs some time to fully recover even after the symptoms have subsided. However, things should get better day by day. Sport should also not be resumed immediately after the illness: "The rough rule of thumb is to take seven to ten days off 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 released when a sick person coughs or sneezes. However, viruses can also stick to door handles, bus handrails or railings and be passed on via our hands.

It is therefore important to wash your hands thoroughly to protect yourself. For example, if you have just touched the handrails on the subway, you should wash your hands first before touching your eyes, mouth or nose. Wearing a mask protects against infection.

The best protection against severe flu is the flu vaccination. The Standing Committee on Vaccination advises all people aged 60 and over to be vaccinated. Vaccination is also recommended for pregnant women and immunocompromised people.

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