Flu wave is rolling in: How to prevent a flu infection

Flu wave is rolling in: How to prevent a flu infection

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Tips about the current flu wave

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) announces the start of this year's flu wave. An increased risk of infection can be expected in the coming weeks. The RKI reports of currently more than 13,000 confirmed cases and 34 outbreaks in Germany.

In contrast to a harmless cold, the real flu (influenza) is a serious illness that kills many people every year. The flu is particularly dangerous for the chronically ill and the elderly over the age of 60. The RKI and the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWIG) provide information on how to protect yourself against the flu.

How is the flu different from a cold?

Even though some symptoms are similar - cold and flu are two different diseases. In contrast to the common cold, a flu breaks out suddenly, while a cold usually creeps in slowly. The complaints are often much more severe and lengthy.

How do you get infected with the virus?

A common route of infection is direct body contact with infected people, for example when shaking hands. The viruses can also be transmitted via indirect contact - for example, when touching things that have previously been touched by infected people. Typical examples are grab handles in the train, door handles or railings.

How do you protect yourself from infection?

The viruses often stick to the hands, where they do no harm for the time being. It is only when they get into the body that they develop their defective potential. If you want to protect yourself, you should make sure to keep your hands away from your face if possible. In addition, the hands should be washed regularly and thoroughly - for at least 20 seconds and with soap.

Do you have to see the doctor with the flu?

According to the IQWIG, medical advice is absolutely useful for influenza, but one should not hope for an effective medication, since there are almost no effective medicines for influenza. In some cases, the active substance oseltamivir is prescribed, but this can lead to severe side effects such as nausea and vomiting. Working people should definitely be on sick leave. Influenza symptoms can last for up to a week. Even after the illness, complaints such as exhaustion and coughing can persist for a long time.

Is real flu dangerous?

Flu doesn't have to be dangerous, but it can. Especially in infants, toddlers, people with a weak immune system as well as in the elderly there are not uncommon diseases or compilations. If the course is severe, the flu is life-threatening.

What can you do if you are already ill?

Those who are infected should stay at home and recover. You should also keep away from other people and dispose of used tissues immediately. Home remedies for flu, such as herbal tea and chicken soup, can alleviate symptoms and improve well-being. In addition, over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or ASA (acetylsalicylic acid) can alleviate the symptoms somewhat.

Is vaccination still worthwhile?

According to the RKI, it may also make sense to make up for the vaccination at the beginning or during the flu wave. The RKI particularly recommends vaccination for the chronically ill, the elderly over 60 and pregnant women. You shouldn't wait too long, however, because the protective effect only takes about two weeks. Vaccination does not offer 100% protection, however. (vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Robert Koch Institute (RKI): Working Group Influenza (accessed: January 23, 2020),
  • Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG): Flu (as of October 23, 2019),

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