flu season
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This is how to get through the flu season in good shape!

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It's that time of year again. The leaves are falling, the weather is getting cooler, and you're using up handkerchiefs faster than you can buy them. Winter is coming and with it the flu season. The flu season typically runs from late October to mid March. Each year, around 10% of all adults and 30% of all children get sick with seasonal flu. The flu is very contagious and can cause mild to severe illness. Sometimes, it can even lead to death. However, in general, healthy people are able to recover from the flu without medical attention.

Flu or a cold?

Sneezing, coughing, a runny nose... People often mistake a severe cold for the flu, and while the symptoms are similar, the flu is a much more serious illness that is caused by the influenza virus.

Below we have listed the symptoms of the common cold and the flu:

Symptoms of the common cold

  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing
  • Slight increase in temperature
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Slight fatigue
  • Watery eyes
  • Earache

Symptoms of the flu

  • Dry cough
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Extended period of extreme fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Sore and stiff limbs
  • Muscular pain

The common cold and flu have some overlapping symptoms. You could say that the common cold is a mild form of the flu. However, the flu is much more severe and will wipe you out for at least a week whereas most people can generally still function when they have a cold. 

Staying healthy this winter

It's almost impossible to avoid catching a cold or getting sick with the flu. But there are some things you can do to stay healthy and reduce the chance of an infection:

Make sure you're in good shape

A body that is in good physical shape increases the resistance which helps to better fight off viruses and bacteria. However, it is not the intention to immediately start doing heavy exercises in the gym. Contrary to what is commonly believed, physical exertion does not make you more resistant. In fact, it puts the body's defence system under excess strain. Mild exercise and being active are more than enough to keep you healthy.

Practise hand hygiene

The flu virus also spreads via hands and objects like doorknobs and toys. So it's important to keep your hands and your environment clean. Wash your hands with soap and water before eating and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. The best way to cough or sneeze is in a handkerchief or in the crook of your arm, or inner elbow, to prevent germs from spreading. And always use disposable handkerchiefs that you throw away afterwards.

Ventilate your living room, study or bedroom

The risk of infection is greatest in enclosed areas with lots of people, such as houses, public transport, offices or day-care centres. Leave the windows ajar or and ventilation grates open, or turn on the air conditioning.

Eat and drink sufficiently

It's also essential to eat healthily and drink sufficiently. Staying hydrated is especially important because going to the toilet more often will help clear the toxic substances from your body, which in turn helps prevent the virus from settling in your body.

I've got the flu. What do I do?

Have you caught the flu despite having taken precautionary measures? Then you should rest until you feel better. It's especially important to stay in bed for the first few days of the flu. Not just for your own good, but also for the people around you. This is because you are most contagious during the first five days after symptoms start. Here are some more tips:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Get plenty of rest, don't do anything that is strenuous
  • Stay warm, don't let your body cool off
  • Take painkillers against flu symptoms

Prevention is better than cure. Do you have the flu and are you feeling too weak and fatigued to see your GP? Then perhaps consulting an online doctor is the solution for you. You can do so via dokteronline.com.

Sources

Busch, A. (2019). 10 dingen die je nog niet wist over griep (10 things you didn’t know about the flu). Consulted on 29 October 2019 on https://www.quest.nl/mens/gezondheid/a25652993/10-dingen-over-griep/

Griep en een goede conditie (Flu and the importance of having a good physical condition). (2016). Consulted on 29 October 2019 on https://consciussports.nl/het-beste-tegen-de-griep-een-goede-conditie/

Teunissen-Nijsse, P. (2009). Verkouden of echt griep: het griepvirus ontleed (Common cold or flu: dissecting the influenza virus). Consulted on 29 October 2019 on https://www.gezondheidsnet.nl/griep-en-verkoudheid/verkouden-of-echt-griep

Verkoudheid en/of griep voorkomen? 11 tips! (Avoiding the common/flu: 11 tips!). (n.d.). Consulted on 29 October 2019 on https://www.quingo.nl/nieuwsblog/verkoudheid-en-of-griep-voorkomen-11-tips/

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