In the broader sense: real flu, virus flu


An influenza causes a cold, cough and malaise.

The disease, known as "flu, " is a sudden infection that occurs in the cold seasons and is triggered by viruses.

Depending on the individual's immune status, an infection with the flu virus can be different. While some sufferers only develop mild symptoms, other people respond to the viral infection with severe discomfort and a pronounced symptoms. Due to the fact that the classic flu appears rather mild within the first few days, it is mistakenly mistaken for a banal cold.

Only when the clinical picture is fully developed does the severity of the course clearly show the difference between cold and the virus flu. In addition, just indicates the sudden onset of complaints to the presence of flu. Flu infections or simple colds usually creep in slowly. The incubation period (time from infection to the onset of first symptoms) can range from a few hours to three to four days for the flu.

Infected persons are already highly contagious during the incubation period, even before they become ill themselves. After the onset of the first symptoms, there is still a high risk of infection for about three to five days.

Causes of a flu

The cause of infection with the classic flu is the infection with a specific viral pathogen. The so-called influenza viruses (influenza viruses) are generally divided into three groups. According to this classification, a distinction is made between influenza viruses of type A, B and C. Especially those viruses of type A or B, after successful transmission in humans, can lead to severe respiratory infections and to the appearance of the flu.

Influenza viruses of type C, on the other hand, are only rarely able to induce serious symptoms in adults. Even children, after being infected with type-C influenza viruses, suffer from mild disease symptoms, if at all. For this reason, influenza viruses of types A and B are among the most important causes of influenza in Central Europe.

Symptoms of a flu

The symptoms of the flu can be very different. Especially the type and intensity of the symptoms depends strongly on the age and the immune status of the affected patient. Basically, weak courses with few symptoms, up to a strong impairment of the body are possible. In rare cases, the effects of flu can even lead to death. In general, children, the elderly, and immunocompromised patients show marked symptoms after infection with the influenza virus. Nevertheless, the flu can also completely obstruct otherwise perfectly healthy people.

Another problem with distinguishing between a true flu and other infectious diseases is the fact that most of the symptoms are relatively nonspecific and could speak for a variety of underlying conditions. Characteristic of a flu, however, is the acute, sudden onset of illness. Many of the affected patients report having felt completely healthy in the morning and increasingly ill during the day. In addition, a true flu is characterized in comparison to other acute respiratory diseases in that the symptoms persist over a long period of time (persist).

In most cases, it only takes 7 to 14 days for a complete resolution of the symptoms. Some symptoms, such as general weakness and loss of appetite, may last for weeks after the onset of the flu. The most important symptoms of influenza include a pronounced feeling of malady, which in most cases is not confined locally to a body region but attacks the whole body.

In addition, nearly all affected individuals develop pronounced fever episodes. Most body temperatures of up to 40 ° C are measured. These fever episodes are usually accompanied by violent chills. In addition, most patients complain of severe head and body aches, especially at the beginning of the flu. In general, patients suffering from influenza feel chipped off, tired and tired. The normal daily routine can not be completed during the acute illness phase.

In the respiratory tract, the virus infection is manifested by the appearance of dry, irritating cough (ie, no expectoration), a dry throat, and swollen nasal mucous membranes. In addition, many of the affected patients report allergy-like swelling and irritation to the eyes.

Furthermore, it may be due to a flu too

  • increased loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • Vomiting and
  • strong diarrhea


In general, these symptoms are similar to the symptoms of a simple cold. However, when looking closely at the symptoms, a clear distinction can be made between a simple cold and the true flu.

To simplify the distinction between cold and flu outside of a flu epidemic is a so-called flu test, which can detect the flu-causing pathogen after a few minutes.

Diagnosis of a flu

The flu is usually diagnosed based on the symptoms of the affected patient. For this purpose, above all, a detailed doctor-patient interview ( anamnesis ) in the foreground. During this interview, the doctor asks the patient about possible pre-existing conditions and the nature and severity of the current symptoms. In addition, allergies, regular medications and different lifestyle habits play a crucial role in this conversation.

In a second step, the doctor gets a first overview of the condition (general condition) of the patient. He succeeds by carrying out a comprehensive physical examination. The doctor checks all relevant organ systems for a flu:

  • Auscultation (listening) of the lungs and heart
  • Palpation (palpation) of the abdominal cavity.

In this way, the suspected diagnosis "flu" can already be confirmed in most cases. In addition, a nasal swab is usually taken from the posterior nasal cavity. Alternatively, a deep throat swab can be done. The tracheal secretions (secretions from the trachea) or secretions of the bronchial system can also be used to detect the influenza virus.

In addition, many doctors rely on the decrease of patient's blood to diagnose a flu. In a special laboratory, the submitted material is examined in different ways for the influenza virus or metabolic products of the pathogen.

The most important method for the detection of influenza virus is the so-called influenza PCR (polymerase chain reaction), in which the genome of the pathogen can be multiplied and subsequently assigned to the influenza virus. In addition, in many cases direct exciters can be detected in electron microscopy or cell culture.

From the second week after the onset of influenza, influenza-specific antibodies can also be detected in the blood. At the beginning of the disease phase, the affected organism usually does not have enough antibodies to guarantee proper detection. This fact is due to the delayed validity of the antibody test.

Furthermore, other parameters measurable in the blood indicate a viral infection. As a rule, the so-called erythrocyte sedimentation rate is significantly increased in the presence of a viral infection such as the flu. On the other hand, a measurement of the white blood cells (in case of suspected leukocytosis) is not very meaningful because they can be quite variable in viral infections. Both an increase and a decrease in white blood cells is possible.

There are now several rapid tests that can diagnose flu within a few minutes. These rapid tests have color-coded antibodies that respond to various influenza virus proteins. In this way, metabolic products of the influenza virus can be displayed in color. A result can be read after about 15 minutes in these tests.

Therapy of the flu

Treatment for true flu can be done in two different ways. On the one hand, the alleviation of the symptoms is in the foreground, on the other hand, however, in individual cases, a direct control of the causative pathogens are needed.

1. Antiviral therapy

To treat influenza, a number of antiviral medicines are now available. If the onset of intake is early, the duration of the illness can be shortened significantly. In addition, it can be shown that patients who are treated with influenza early antiviral, less likely to develop life-threatening complications. In general, two different classes of compounds are used to treat the flu. In addition to the inhibitors of a specific membrane protein (M2), which acts as a proton pump on the viral envelope, nowadays especially the so-called neuraminidase inhibitors are frequently used.

By taking neuraminidase inhibitors, the activity of the viral surface enzyme neuraminidase is throttled, thus blocking the release of the virus upon release from a host cell. Neuraminidase inhibitors therefore prevent the infection of other, previously uninvolved cells. It should be noted, however, that both substance classes only prevent the multiplication of the influenza virus. Already within the organism contained viruses can not be inactivated or eliminated by these drugs. For this reason, the time has also started with the intake of antiviral drugs, a decisive impact on the success of the treatment. Experts consider influenza treatment with antiviral drugs to be useful only if the onset of the first symptoms is no more than 48 hours ago. Otherwise, there is no positive influence on the course of the disease, even when taking the medicine.
Also read: Grippostad ® and general information about medicines against viruses.

2. Symptomatic therapy

Since an immunocompetent organism is in most cases able to cope with an influenza virus infection, in many cases symptomatic therapy is in the foreground. The aim of this treatment strategy is to alleviate the typical symptoms of flu and increase the well-being of the affected patient.

In case of high fever and headache, muscle and limb pain medicines such as Ibuprofen® or Paracetamol® can be taken. Both drugs have both an analgesic ( analgesic ), as well as a antipyretic ( febrifugal ) component of action. For this reason, they are particularly suitable for the symptomatic treatment of the flu.

If necessary, a tablet may be taken approximately every 5-6 hours. In many cases it has also been shown that switching between ibuprofen and paracetamol leads to an improved antipyretic effect of the preparations. This means that affected patients, for example, start taking ibuprofen if necessary, and take one dose of paracetamol five to six hours later.

Painkillers such as Aspirin® ( acetylsalicylic acid, ASA ) should not be used in children under the age of 12 years. Taking Aspirin® in the presence of a viral infection can cause dangerous and 25% fatal Reye syndrome in children under the age of 12 years. In addition, patients should drink enough fluids during the disease phase and stay in bed if possible. The body needs enough rest to contain the virus and drive recovery.

3. Other therapy options

Although the flu is an infectious disease caused by a virus, the use of an antibiotic may be useful. This fact can be explained by the fact that contagion with the influenza virus weakens the immune system so much that at the same time it is often too

  • bacterial throat infections
  • acute bronchitis
  • Pneumonia or
  • Meningitis

can come.


After becoming infected with an influenza virus, the so-called incubation period of the disease begins. This means that although an infection has taken place and the viruses multiply in the body of the person concerned, but still no complaints. This incubation period usually lasts about 1-2 days.

Typical of the flu is that for the typical symptoms can occur within a few hours. The average duration of the disease is around 5-7 days after onset of symptoms. In some cases, however, the disease can last for weeks.

Depending on the occurrence of potential complications and specific, individual risk factors, the time to recovery from a flu illness can take several weeks and may even require hospitalization. Patients with risk factors, such as the elderly, usually experience an acute worsening of symptoms about 3-5 days after onset of symptoms.

In general, the symptoms of the disease are not the same on each day of the disease but may vary depending on the progress of the disease. Typically, flu starts very suddenly and severely and is dominated in the first few days by periodic attacks of fever. In the course of the disease, the symptoms become weaker, until they are completely eliminated at the end of the disease.


In many cases, it is not the flu virus itself that causes the greatest possible risk of influenza, but the additional bacterial infections that are more likely to result from it. In many cases, the organism, which is already weakened by the fight against influenza viruses, is no longer capable of causing bacterial pathogens to meet adequately.

For this reason, bacteria can penetrate the body much more easily and lead to further illnesses. Among the most relevant diseases that can occur in parallel with the flu include inflammation

  • of the brain (encephalitis)
  • skeletal muscle ( myositis ) and
  • of the heart muscle (myocarditis)

In addition, superinfection in the respiratory tract is often observed in affected patients.

Prevention of influenza

The most effective way to prevent a flu is to take a flu shot. In contrast to other vaccination methods, however, there is a significant problem with influenza vaccination. Influenza viruses, especially those viruses of type A, are considered to be extremely versatile.

This means that the pathogens responsible for the onset of influenza are constantly changing due to mutations within the genome. With regard to an effective vaccination, this means that immunization only makes sense if it is refreshed every year. For this reason, every year (mostly from October to November), large-scale vaccination campaigns are held to immunize the influenza virus strains circulating at that time. The cost of a flu vaccination are usually fully covered by the statutory and private health insurance. Whether a vaccination makes sense, ultimately everyone must decide for themselves.

For the following groups of people, the preventive vaccine against influenza viruses is especially recommended:

  • People older than 60 years
  • Pregnant women from the 2nd trimester of pregnancy
  • Children and adolescents
  • Adults at increased health risk (due to chronic diseases of the lungs, heart, circulation, liver or kidneys)
  • diabetic
  • Patients with multiple sclerosis
  • Immunodeficient patients
  • HIV-Infected
  • Residents of nursing homes
  • People at increased risk of infection (medical staff, teachers, educators ...)

In addition, some basic hygiene rules can help to prevent infection with the influenza virus and thus escape flu. If close family members or people in the area suffer from flu, hands should be thoroughly washed and disinfected several times a day.

At-risk patients should keep their distance from the infected or wear a face mask when in direct contact. In addition, a sufficient intake of vitamin D should help to reduce the risk of infection and prevent infection. In this context, the vitamin-induced strengthening of the innate immune system plays a crucial role. The vitamin is able to stimulate the formation of various peptides needed to control pathogens.

Furthermore, in some groups flu prevention with neuraminidase inhibitors is possible. This precautionary measure can be used, above all, in patients who are no longer able to receive conventional vaccination because of an underlying disease (for example, in patients with a severely weakened immune system). The use of neuraminidase inhibitors is also being discussed in influenza prevention for medical staff.


The vaccine against influenza viruses is the only reliable method to efficiently prevent disease with the virus.

The vaccine is in most cases a so-called " dead vaccine ". This means that the vaccine contains killed viruses that can no longer infect the organism, but efficiently prepare the immune system for infection with the pathogen, effectively preventing disease from contacting the virus. Since the 2012/13 season there is also a " live vaccine ", which is approved for children aged 2 to 17 inclusive. This is intended to improve the efficacy of the drug in this age group.

The vaccine is refreshed annually, mostly in October and November, as this is the beginning of the influenza virus infection. According to data from the Robert Koch Institute, the vaccine protects up to 90% of the disease with the pathogen. The STIKO (Permanent Vaccination Commission) recommends the flu vaccine especially for people who fall into one of the following risk groups:

  • Persons over the age of 60
  • Pregnant from the 2nd trimester
  • Children, adolescents and adults with health risks due to a present underlying disease
  • Persons at heightened risk of contracting the virus (for example, medical staff), as well as persons who can potentially infect many other people with the disease (eg, teachers)
  • Persons in regular contact with poultry or wild birds

  • flu shot
  • Influenza vaccine in pregnancy

home remedies

Although home remedies are often recommended for the treatment of influenza, it must be mentioned that a true flu, ie the infection with an influenza virus, should not be confused with a cold, even a flu infection. The "real" flu is a condition that in some cases can lead to serious complications and even death, so treatment, especially in high-risk groups, should be discussed with a doctor.

However, there are helpful home remedies that can alleviate the symptoms of flu. For example, the onset of fever episodes or diarrhea can quickly lead to significant dehydration, which can be treated well with soups or teas. These hot liquids can also be comfortable with concomitant sore throat. Due to the electrolytes contained in the soup, these are additionally supplied to the body when ingested. In case of fever, calf compresses can help to control the elevated temperature. In case of problems such as a stuffy nose or a dry nasal mucosa, nasal irrigation or inhalations with salt water can provide relief.

Difference flu / cold

The common cold, often called a "flu infection", is a viral disease that is often confused with a "real" flu. A "true" flu is an infection with the influenza virus, a condition that in some cases can be very severe. While the causative agent of the common cold is also a virus, a number of different viruses can be held responsible for the development of the common cold. Most of them are viruses of the families of adenoviruses, rhinoviruses, coxsackieviruses, parainfluenza viruses or enteroviruses.

Due to the similar symptoms of the two diseases, it can easily be confused. However, there are some typical differences that can be used to distinguish a "common" cold from a flu:

First, the sudden onset of influenza is a point that distinguishes influenza from the common cold. Within hours, the symptoms of the flu can affect the affected person so that a normal everyday life is no longer possible. Particularly sudden onset of fever and body aches are mentioned as warning signs. In contrast, a cold usually announces the day before with weaker symptoms and general malaise. At the same time, fever episodes, which are typical for influenza, tend to be the exception in the case of a simple cold.

The duration of the disease is another point that distinguishes the simple cold from the flu. The symptoms of a cold usually improve after just 3-4 days, whereby the disease course of a flu usually lasts at least a week and may even last several weeks in some cases.

In case of suspected influenza virus disease, a doctor should always be consulted to make the distinction on the basis of a doctor-patient interview and a physical examination and, if appropriate, initiate the correct treatment of the disease.


Healthy adults without chronic diseases of the cardiovascular system, the immune system or the metabolism usually have to expect a complication-free course. It comes to a complete healing of the flu without consequences.

In a complicated course of the prognosis depends on the age of the patient, pre-existing conditions and the state of the immune system. In an elderly patient with known coronary artery disease and the complication of bacterial pneumonia in addition to the flu, the prognosis is more serious, in the worst case, the disease can be fatal.


The flu is an infectious respiratory disease caused by influenza viruses. It is transmitted by droplet infection and is characterized by a very sudden onset of illness. The most common symptoms are headache and body aches, high fever above 39 ° C and chills and dry cough.

The flu usually lasts one to two weeks, but many patients still feel weak and less efficient for some time.

In high-risk patients, such as the chronically ill, over-65s, infants, toddlers, and pregnant women, the flu can cause complications such as pneumonia, meningitis, and myocarditis, which can result in death.

For the risk groups mentioned, an annual flu vaccine must be considered.

How Does Flu Make You Sick? (February 2020).

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