Staying healthy The 2018 flu wave – this is how you can protect yourself now

Staying healthy The 2018 flu wave - this is how you can protect yourself now

The 2018 flu wave is rolling over Germany. Gradually the number of infected people increases. At the moment the spread is still limited. The Influenza Working Group, which is constantly monitoring the flu epidemic in Germany, reports exactly 1,424 virus records for the first calendar week of 2018. According to the experts, this is a “slightly increased influenza activity”. But it doesn’t have to stop there! The peak of the flu epidemic is yet to come. Usually the season doesn’t end until the end of March.

Flu symptoms – how do I recognize a real flu virus

First of all, it is important to know that not everyone has a cold is the flu, even if we use this term a lot in everyday life. There is a clear difference between a cold, which is usually quite harmless and is over after a week, and a viral flu, which can be a real danger for the elderly or sick. The course of such a virus flu, the so-called influenza, is much more difficult. Nevertheless, the clinical pictures are similar and the distinction between a particularly severe cold and influenza is not easy, even for medical professionals. Ultimately, only a laboratory test can provide evidence of the real flu.

However, there are some clear indications that you have the viral flu rather than a simple cold. That is the beginning of the illness. A cold develops insidiously: First a scratchy throat, then your nose is runny and after a few days you got hit. A real flu, on the other hand, usually starts all of a sudden: in the morning you still felt in top shape and in the evening you suddenly have severe headache, body aches and a fever. The following Flu symptoms are typical:

However, these symptoms of the flu are not the same or equally pronounced in every person. For some they are much milder. Some flu sufferers have no typical flu symptoms at all, but “only” fever and aching limbs. In addition, recovery takes significantly longer. Some sufferers lie completely flat for two weeks.

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How to prevent catching the flu

The flu pathogens can spread in two ways: On the one hand via the so-called droplet infection. When a sick person coughs, sneezes or speaks, the finest droplets that carry the pathogen are distributed in the room. These can fly meters away. Experts are not entirely in agreement on how far. Some speak of a few meters, others even 30 or 40 meters. This makes it clear that you are always at risk in public. Whether in the office, in the supermarket or in the subway: If someone with influenza sneezes nearby, you can hardly avoid the virus completely.

In addition, viruses also spread via smear infection. This means that they stick to objects such as light switches, doorknobs, elevator buttons, keyboards and the like. So if you touch a door handle that someone has previously touched, you have the virus on your hands. If you then touch your face, for example, the pathogen lands on your mucous membranes and can spread.

So you cannot completely rule out an infection. However, the following steps can help you reduce your chances of catching the 2018 flu wave yourself.

1. Hygiene and again hygiene and hands off your face

Frequent hand washing is essential during a flu epidemic. If you have been out in public, such as shopping, it is important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, as well as before you eat. It is important to carefully lather your hands and to distribute the soap between your fingers, under your fingernails and on your joints. Lathering should take at least 20 to 30 seconds. Then wash your hands thoroughly. In public washrooms, you should turn the tap off with your elbow or a disposable towel afterwards.

If you come into frequent contact with people, have to shake a lot of hands or handle change and at the same time rarely have the opportunity to wash your hands, you can also use hand disinfectantsthat can be found in every drugstore. Doctors also use such agents to get their hands free of viruses in between.

You should also try not to touch your face too often, especially when you are out and about and have already touched various objects.

2. Avoid crowds

This is of course not that easy, but if you have the opportunity avoid moving in the midst of a large crowd. If possible, avoid shopping during rush hour and avoid public transport during the flu epidemic. Large events such as concerts, sporting events or carnival celebrations are also the purest breeding grounds for influenza viruses.

3. Strengthen the immune system

Your own immune system is still the best protection. Strengthen it with a balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables. Zinc is also good for the immune system. It can be found in oatmeal, nuts or lentils, for example. Exercise in the fresh air is also important. If you do exercise outside, make sure you wear the right clothing and be careful not to get too cold. If you get wet with sweat, take off your wet clothes at home and take a hot shower immediately. Speaking of hot: taking a sauna also strengthens the immune system.

Doctor with syringe and arm

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Influenza vaccination – recommendable despite limited protection?

Another good way to protect yourself against the flu wave in Germany is vaccination. But you have to know that this does not offer 100 percent protection. This is because, strictly speaking, there is no such thing as one flu, but rather many different strains of viruses are on the road as pathogens. Every year, the experts can only estimate which viruses will be up to mischief in the coming winter and then put together the vaccine to the best of their knowledge and belief. Unfortunately, the experts can sometimes be mistaken, because the recommendation for the composition of the vaccine comes from the World Health Organization months in advance. If the composition is correct, the protective effect is around 80 percent, and even slightly lower in older people.

With the flu wave of 2018, unfortunately, it currently looks like the common triple active ingredient, which is paid for by health insurance in many cases, only has a limited effect. Influenza B virus caused over half of the registered influenza cases to date. It is the so-called Yamagata lineage. These viruses are not covered by the common triple vaccine. However, you can get a quadruple vaccine that covers multiple viruses if you want. This year it also contains this B virus. The health insurance companies usually do not cover the costs. If there is a serious illness, there may be exception rules.

In addition to the fact that it is not 100 percent effective, there are other arguments against vaccination: Some people do not tolerate the vaccine well and have circulatory problems or even get mild flu symptoms. Still, the flu shot is the best protection there is. Not only does it help each and every one of us by significantly reducing the risk of illness, but can also help keep the spread of the flu epidemic in Germany as low as possible. For this reason as many people as possible should be vaccinated. In particular, the elderly or people with chronic illnesses and medical staff should take advantage of the vaccination. It is also recommended for pregnant women from the second trimester.

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