Flu (influenza)

Flu or influenza is a general illness with an often severe course which is transmitted by influenza viruses. It occurs almost exclusively during the winter months and is accompanied by fever, coughing, sniffles, headache and joint pains.

Overview

Flu or influenza is a general illness with an often severe course which is transmitted by influenza viruses. It occurs almost exclusively during the winter months and is accompanied by fever, coughing, sniffles, headache and joint pains. General hygiene measures (e.g. washing the hands) can have a preventive effect. If flu symptoms occur, bed rest is recommended.

Symptoms

General

  • Occurs almost exclusively during the winter months
  • Symptoms begin a few hours to two days after infection
  • Course: 33% asymptomatic, 33% mild symptoms, 33% typical flu symptoms
  • Duration: 5 to 7 days, possibly continued weakness/fatigue for another 1 to 2 weeks

Typical symptoms

Complications

Causes and treatment

Cause

  • Pathogens: influenza viruses A and B
  • Transmission:
    • Droplet infection (talking, sneezing, coughing)
    • Smear infection (e.g. kissing, door knobs and handrails)

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Physical examination (usually sufficient)
  • Identification of virus, if necessary (nasal/throat swabs)
  • Blood test
Possible therapies
  • Antipyretic (i.e. fever-reducing) drugs
  • If disease is severe: hospitalisation
  • Antiviral medication: pre-existing conditions, pregnancy, risk or suspicion that flu will take a severe course

What can I do myself?

  • High fluid intake
  • Bed rest
  • Cough up phlegm (don’t suppress the urge to cough)
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle
    • Balanced, vitamin-rich diet
    • Exercise and sufficient relaxation
    • Avoid the following factors: sleep deprivation, stress, too much alcohol, nicotine
  • Household remedies
    • Fever-reducing: calf wraps (e.g. with vinegar water), cold compresses on the groin
    • For coughing and sniffles: chamomile and steam inhalations
    • Throat infections: gargle solutions (e.g. chamomile oil extract)
  • Don't take antiviral medication as a preventive measure (no effect)
  • Ensure that there is enough humidity in the room (e.g. air the room regularly for 5 to 10 minutes)
  • Self-protection when caring for a flu patient (see below)
  • Flu vaccination:
    • Recommended for: persons with a higher risk of complications; persons who have professional or private contact with them
    • More information: impfengegengrippe.ch

Hygiene measures

  • Hand hygiene
    • Wash hands regularly with soap and water
    • Wash hands every time after coughing or sneezing (to protect others)
    • If there is no soap: use hand sanitiser
  • Coughing and sneezing:
    • Into a paper tissue, throw away immediately after use
    • Into the crook of the arm if a tissue isn’t immediately available
  • Social contact during epidemics:
    • Avoid large gatherings of people
    • Restrict social contact to the essential
    • Keep your distance (at least one metre) from others
    • Don’t shake hands, kiss hello or hug people
    • Stay at home if you have symptoms
  • Face masks: can provide some protection against droplet infection

When to see a doctor?

Further information

Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH)
www.bag.admin.ch/bag/en

www.impfengegengrippe.ch

Synonyms

flu, influenza, endemic flu

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Exclusion of liability

CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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