It’s that time of year again. The leaves are falling, the weather is getting cooler, and you’re seeing more and more spiders around your home. Winter is coming, and with it comes the flu season. 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 a 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 severe colds for the flu, and while the symptoms are similar, the flu is a much more serious illness that is caused by the influenza virus.
Symptoms of the common cold:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Low-grade fever
- Some tiredness
- Watery eyes
- Ear pain
Symptoms of the flu:
- Dry cough
- Cold tremors
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Extended period of extreme fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Shortness of breath
- Body aches, stiffness
- Muscle pain
The flu and the common cold 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.
Avoiding the flu
It’s almost impossible to avoid getting sick with the flu. This is because the flu virus is highly contagious, spreads easily and adapts constantly. But there are some things you can do to reduce the chance of infection:
- Make sure you’re healthy: a body that is in good physical condition has a stronger immune system and is therefore better able to fight off viruses and bacteria. However, don’t run to the gym and start weightlifting. 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 is more than enough to keep you healthy.
- Practise hand hygiene: the flu virus also spreads via hands and objects like door knobs and toys. So it’s important to keep your hands and your environment clean. To keep the flu virus at bay, 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.
- Air out your living room, study or bedroom: the chance of infection is the greatest in enclosed areas with lots of people, such as houses, public transport, offices or daycare centres. Crack a window or open vents to get fresh air in, or turn on the air conditioning.
What to consider furthermore?
It’s also important to eat healthily and drink plenty of fluids. Staying hydrated is especially important because going to the toilet more often will help clear the toxics in your body, which in turn helps prevent the virus from nestling in body cells.
Do you fall into a high-risk group? Then you should get an annual flu vaccination to reduce your chance of catching the flu. High-risk groups for flu complications are:
- The over-60s
- People with chronic heart and vascular disease
- People with chronic lung disease
- People with type 2 diabetes
- People with kidney disease
- People with a weakened immune system resulting from illness or medicine use
I’ve got the flu. What do I do?
Did you catch the flu despite having taken precautionary measures? Then you should rest until you feel better. It’s especially important to stay home and get into bed those first few days of coming down with the flu. Not just for your own good, but also for the people around you. This is because you are most contagious in the first five days after symptoms start. Other things you can do:
- Drink lots of water
- Get plenty of rest, don’t do anything that is strenuous
- Stay warm, don’t let your body cool off
- Take painkillers to relieve 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 an online doctor’s consultation is the solution for you. You can consult a doctor via dokteronline.com.
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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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