Influenza, Covid-19 or the common cold: how to recognize what you have

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The onset of cold weather often goes hand in hand with an increase in respiratory infections. According to ÖGK Chief Physician Andreas Krauter, over 113,000 people in this country were on sick leave with colds two weeks ago, over 29,000 of them with COVID-19. Over 400 were infected with influenza, and more than 84,000 people were at home due to flu-like infections. As several diseases are currently circulating, it is therefore crucial to protect yourself and others, according to experts.

How to protect yourself against infections
Vaccinations offer the best protection against coronavirus and influenza. They can prevent serious illnesses, hospital stays, and consequential damage. According to experts, it is also essential to ensure good hand hygiene, keep your distance, and wear masks in enclosed spaces with a high risk of infection. “These simple measures can make a significant difference, not only in preventing COVID-19 but also the flu and other colds,” says Dr. Marco Franzoi, a specialist in internal medicine.

According to general practitioner Dr. Doris Gapp (homeofhealth.at), it is also advisable to take high doses of vitamin C as soon as possible when the first symptoms of a cold appear. According to the doctor, two vitamin C infusions within a week are particularly effective.

Recognize the typical signs
If you fall ill, you’re often not sure whether it’s COVID-19, influenza, or just a common cold. “The first step in dealing with health complaints is therefore to recognize and understand the symptoms,” says Dr. Franzoi.

Flu-like infection
“Although a cold is annoying, it doesn’t usually have any serious or even life-threatening consequences for us,” says the internist. The main pathogens of “flu” are human rhinoviruses, which mainly occur during the cold season. A runny or blocked nose, a sore throat, a persistent cough, and a slight fever are all symptoms of common flu. The internist recommends giving yourself the time you need to recover and taking good care of yourself.
At the first signs of a cold, it is best to take preventative steps and seek medical advice. According to Dr. Franzoi, sufficient rest and conscious self-care can, in most cases, lead to a significant reduction in symptoms within about a week. There is no specific treatment for many viral diseases. “Treatment is usually limited to alleviating the symptoms,” says Dr. Gapp. However, you can try to support the immune system in its work as much as possible. Rest, restfulness, plenty of sleep, and certain vitamins and trace elements such as vitamin C, zinc, and selenium are beneficial. You should also drink plenty of water or tea – at least two liters. The doctor also recommends inhaling salt water. This is because viruses do not like damp heat.

Covid-19
Fever, a persistent dry cough, and a sudden loss of sense of taste and smell are typical of corona. In addition, some people may also experience breathing difficulties, fatigue, or even gastrointestinal problems such as nausea and diarrhea. As Dr. Franzoi points out, the virus is unpredictable: “The cunning of COVID-19 lies in its variable expression. While some have barely noticeable symptoms, others can be affected by severe and sometimes long-lasting symptoms.”

To prevent the spread of the virus, it is critical to self-isolate at any sign – even mild symptoms – and seek medical attention as soon as possible. Patients at risk, i.e., older people or people with immunodeficiency or lung disease, can be treated with effective agents such as nirmatrelvir and ritonavir.

Influenza
Typical symptoms of true influenza are fever, pronounced muscle aches, headaches, and considerable malaise. Pronounced tiredness and a persistent, dry cough are also common. The flu, according to the doctor, is not only more severe than a cold, but it also has a higher risk of complications.

It is therefore important to understand the consequences of the flu. For vulnerable people, it can have serious, sometimes life-threatening consequences. As mentioned above, preventative measures such as vaccination are highly recommended. In the event of an illness, medical professionals should be consulted at an early stage. Patients at risk of influenza infection are often treated with the active ingredient oseltamivir.

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