Coughing, sneezing and sore throat – and in the middle of summer! All you need to know about the summer flu. And how best to treat it and protect yourself.
Your nose is runny, and your head hurts. And you start coughing more and more. Your plans to spend the warm summer day outside in nature will have to be postponed. You feel fluish and all you want to do is go to bed.
How can that be? Having a cough and a cold during the warm time of the year doesn’t seem right. But even in summertime, viruses are around that can trigger a flu-like infection. And our immune system can also be stressed in summer, not just in winter. Fortunately, summer flu is not a very serious illness – despite the fact that “flu” is part of the name.
Differences between influenza and the summer flu
The summer flu usually expresses as a cold, i.e. a flu-like infection. It can be caused by many types of viruses. Enteroviruses are often involved. These viruses multiply in the intestine and are excreted with the stool. Unlike most colds and influenza, enteroviruses are therefore often transmitted by smear infections, such as a handshake.
So, actually, the term “summer flu” is not accurate – sniffles and colds are not really flu. Actual influenza occurs during the winter and is triggered by influenza viruses. Laymen often use the two terms as equivalents. From a medical point of view, however, they are two different conditions.
The difference between a cold and the flu is also seen in how the symptoms present and the severity of the disease. A cold develops over several days. After one week you usually feel healthy again. With the flu, the symptoms come on quite suddenly. Patients may be bedridden for up to ten days and it may take them weeks to fully recover.
Typical summer flu symptoms
Although the summer cold viruses have nothing to do with the typical flu, the symptoms overlap. Typical symptoms of summer flu are:
- earache, headache, sore throat and aching limbs
- loss of appetite
- occasionally abdominal pain and diarrhoea
The acute phase of a summer flu lasts about three days. If major symptoms persist beyond this, a doctor should be consulted. Medical attention should also be sought if you get a high fever and your temperature rises above 39 degrees. It takes about a week to completely recover from the cold.
Household remedies and medication
What is the best way to relieve summer flu symptoms? Most important: plenty of rest is required. As tempting as the beautiful weather and the warm summer evenings may be, you should take it easy and get plenty of rest for about one week to regain your strength. Otherwise, you are likely to just drag out the illness.
The household remedies that typically help against colds, sore throats and coughs are also effective against the summer flu.
- Sweating cure
If you feel a cold coming on, then sweating it out can work wonders. It improves the body’s defences. Take a hot bath with a few drops of thyme oil added to the bath water and drink one or two cups of sweat-inducing tea (elder, linden blossom, camomile blossom or ginger). Afterwards, lie in bed and keep yourself covered. Caution: you should not try the sweating cure if you suffer from cardiovascular or circulatory problems.
Drink plenty of fluids: water, herbal tea or fruit juices.
- Sore throat
Drink chamomile, sage or thyme tea or warm milk with honey to relieve the inflammation.
- Dry cough
For a dry cough, warm milk with honey or plantain and rosehip tea can reduce irritation and tickly throat. For wet, pflegmy coughs, primrose, fennel, anise or thyme tea are more suitable remedies.
Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a litre of water. Use this solution to rinse out your nose. This helps flush out viruses and bacteria in the nasal cavity.
Paracetamol and leg compresses help to lower the body’s temperature.
- Leg compress
Soak two cloths in vinegar and water and place these around the calves. Wrap a terry towel around the compress and cover yourself with a blanket. Replace the compress when the inner towels have warmed up.
For how long are you contagious with a summer flu?
When you sneeze or cough, viruses are spread through the air. The disease can then be transmitted via droplet infection. In the first two to three days, you are particularly contagious for others. However, the risk of infection can last up to a week. You should therefore avoid contact with others. However, colds can even be transmitted before the illness breaks out in the infected person – since the germs have already become established in the infected person, the risk of transmission is substantially greater before the person becomes symptomatic.
Is there a vaccine for summer flu?
The flu vaccine is specific for the winter influenza virus. There is no vaccination against viral infections during the summer. That makes it all the more important to protect yourself from an infection.
These tips can help you prevent summer flu:
Cold weather is not a prerequisite for catching a cold. It’s enough if your immune system is weakened. Then germs have an advantage.
- Drink plenty of fluids to keep your mucous membranes moist.
- Ventilate rooms regularly. Make sure you get plenty of fresh air.
- Avoid air conditioning and draughts.
- Wash your hands regularly with soap.
- Avoid large crowds.
- Get enough sleep and eat a healthy diet.
- Do not wear wet or perspired clothing for too long.
- Do not expose yourself to direct sunlight. Long sunbaths make you more susceptible to viral infections. They can weaken your immune system.
- Avoid ice-cold drinks. They are refreshing but can cool down the body’s mucous membranes too much, impairing the body’s ability to defend itself against viruses.