How to protect yourself and others from flu and cold
Fever, fatigue, headache and body aches: The flu cases in Germany are increasing rapidly. In addition, more and more people are getting a cold. However, you can protect yourself against both diseases. Experts explain what to look out for.
More and more flu and cold diseases
Runny nose, fever, headache: In the past few weeks, cases of influenza have spread more and more. The number of colds has also increased. Because the symptoms are similar, it is not entirely clear to some people whether they suffer from a "simple" cold or flu. Experts explain how the two diseases differ and how you can protect yourself against them.
Difference between cold and flu
It is not uncommon to catch an infection in wet and cold weather. But how do you tell the difference between a cold and a flu?
Dr. Wolfgang Reuter, health expert at DKV Deutsche Krankenversicherung, explains the difference between the illnesses in a consumer information.
"It is not always easy to differentiate between a cold and influenza," says Dr. Reuter.
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, symptoms such as fatigue and fatigue are usually more intense.
Influenza usually hits the body with full force. Cough, chills, headache and high fever - often over 40 degrees - are also indications of influenza.
Older people, children and people with a serious underlying illness, such as the cardiovascular system, should then definitely consult a doctor. Even if the symptoms are not clear.
"Both colds and the real flu are usually transmitted via droplet infection," explains the DKV expert. "This means that the viruses pass from person to person when they cough, sneeze or speak."
In order to protect yourself from infection, it is generally a good idea to keep away from the sick. And those who are already ill or particularly susceptible to infection should avoid crowds wherever possible.
These include, for example, fully occupied buses, trains or elevators. Above all, proper hygiene is the be-all and end-all during the cold period. Viruses can also spread to doorknobs, keyboards or handles, for example in stairwells.
If the hand moves from there to the nose or mouth, it can happen quickly. "Frequent, thorough hand washing is an important preventive measure," emphasizes the health expert.
"Likewise, the hands should stay away from the face, especially from the mucous membranes on the mouth and nose." It is advisable to avoid shaking hands and hugs during a flu or cold wave.
In addition to such measures, there is another way to protect yourself against an influenza infection:
"In principle, a flu shot makes sense, because vaccination can significantly reduce the risk of infection - by more than half," explains Dr. Johannes Schenkel, Medical Director of the Independent Patient Counseling Germany (UPD), in a message.
Ultimately, everyone has to decide for themselves whether a flu vaccination makes sense.
Strengthening the body's defenses: fresh air and warm clothing
The best protection against an infection is a good, resilient immune system. In order to strengthen your own defenses, it is therefore advisable right now to pay attention to a healthy, vitamin-rich diet, sufficient exercise and enough sleep.
“If you want to stand up to the pathogens, dress warmly because freezing weakens the immune system,” advises Dr. Reuter. Saunas and changing showers can also help to strengthen the immune system.
The mucous membranes only offer protection against infection as long as they do not dry out. Therefore, the viruses have an easy time with dry heating air.
"Regular ventilation at home and at work is therefore also a good idea in winter," says the DKV expert. Humidifiers can also help prevent the mucous membranes from drying out.
What helps if I get infected?
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.
Most infections heal on their own: As a rule, colds reach their peak after two or three days, after about a week the worst should be over.
Those affected should best lie warmly wrapped up in bed or on the sofa and drink two to three liters of water or herbal tea a day.
The complaints can be alleviated with the classic home remedies. There are some things that really help with colds.
A pack of chopped onions, for example, helps with ear pain. A hot chicken soup improves well-being, and its steam also lets the secretions flow out of the airways.
Gargling with an infusion of sage, wild mallow or chamomile has a beneficial effect on hoarseness and sore throat, while cough has proven to be good for thyme and ribwort.
Taking vitamin C does not help
There are also a number of over-the-counter cold remedies in the pharmacy, but they only fight the symptoms: the cause itself, i.e. the viruses, can only defeat the body's immune system - and that takes time.
In the case of high fever, severe pain or if the symptoms do not subside after seven days, a visit to the doctor is advisable.
The additional intake of vitamin C for colds is useless. According to scientific knowledge, such preparations have no influence on the symptoms and the duration of the disease. (ad)