Summer flu: what's behind it and what helps?
Cough, runny nose, hoarseness, sore throat, headache and body aches - and that in the middle of summer. What's behind the "summer flu", how can you avoid it and what helps if we get caught? This article provides information.
In most cases, what is often referred to as the summer flu does not actually refer to the flu, but rather to a common cold that can be triggered by various viruses. The real flu is caused by the flu virus, which circulates mainly during the winter months.
Triggers of flu infections in summer
A summer flu, on the other hand, is mainly triggered by enteroviruses, coxsackieviruses and rather harmless echoviruses, since these pathogens are adapted to warm temperatures. Currently, however, most infections that cause flu-like symptoms are due to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in the omicron BA.5 variant.
Why the corona virus won't subside this summer
A German research team was only recently able to prove that a subvariant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus called BA.5 is responsible for the atypical summer wave of the coronavirus. This subspecies of the omicron variant displaced the variants that still predominated in the spring.
The insidious thing about BA.5 is that it is an immune evasion variant in which previously acquired antibodies are less effective due to an infection or vaccination that has survived. is why this sub-variant can also spread particularly rapidly during the summer months. The good news, however, is that the vast majority of infections are mild.
Symptoms of summer flu compared to the real flu
Another difference with the real flu is that the symptoms of a summer flu or a flu-like infection set in quite slowly. The cold already announces itself for one or more days with a sore throat, sore throat or hoarseness and the symptoms slowly worsen.
In the case of a real flu, caused by influenza viruses, symptoms appear suddenly within hours and are usually worse than those of a flu-like infection.
Typical symptoms of a summer flu
Symptoms of a summer flu usually resemble those of a winter cold. Here are examples of typical complaints:
Mouth ulcers from summer flu
In rarer cases, painful canker sores can form in the mouth and throat. The so-called hand-foot-mouth disease can also occur during a summer flu. This causes additional canker sores on the hands and feet. In addition, other forms of rashes can also occur during a summer flu.
Complications of summer flu
In very rare cases, complications can occur during a summer flu, such as inflammation of the heart, meninges or brain.
If the immune system is severely weakened by the infection, there is an increased risk of bacterial secondary infections, which can then cause middle ear infections or pneumonia. Newborn babies in particular have an increased risk of severe summer flu.
How are summer flu pathogens spread?
All pathogens typical of summer flu are transmitted either by droplets or smears. In droplet infections, tiny droplets are released into the air by infected people when they speak, breathe, cough and sneeze and can then be inhaled by other people.
In the case of smear infections, pathogens are usually transmitted from the hands of an infected person to others indirectly via objects such as doorknobs, railings, phones and tablets or directly by squeezing the hand. hand.
The risk of infection is therefore increased in places where many different people are present, including, for example, public transport, offices, public events, concerts, discos, swimming pools, playgrounds, schools and kindergartens.
prevent summer flu
Washing your hands thoroughly regularly is a proven method of getting rid of pathogens on your hands. Constant face contact with unwashed fingers should also be avoided.
Drinking a lot protects the mucous membranes of the nose and mouth from drying out. Viruses are less able to establish themselves in moist mucous membranes. This is especially important for people who are often in air-conditioned rooms, since the air there is particularly dry.
Air humidity of around 40% in rooms also protects the mucous membranes from drying out.
At the first signs of summer flu, a nasal wash can in some cases prevent or alleviate an illness, since the pathogens that have settled in the mucous membranes are evacuated.
Avoid cooling and overheating
Strong temperature fluctuations can put a lot of pressure on the body. For example, anyone who walks around in wet bathing suits or sweaty clothes, who is unresponsive to low temperatures for long evenings, who is in drafts, or gets a lot of sun can sometimes weaken the immune system and increase the risk of infection.
Your own immune system offers the best protection
The best weapon to ward off pathogens is your own immune system, summer or winter. A balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and sufficient physical activity are the most effective ways to boost the immune system or keep it strong.
What helps with summer flu?
If the summer flu strikes anyway, in most cases there is no reason to panic. The body usually recovers from an infection with summer flu pathogens within three days. Rest is the best medicine during this time.
Medicines are usually not necessary, they only help with the symptoms anyway and cannot shorten the course. When it comes to the common cold, there are many proven home remedies that can ease symptoms. You can find them in the article: "Home remedies for the common cold - they may work".
When to consult a doctor for the summer flu?
If there is no improvement after three days, if the fever exceeds 39 degrees Celsius, or if yellowish or greenish secretions form in the nose or mouth, medical help should be sought. It could be a secondary bacterial infection. (vb)
Author and source informationShow now
This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.
Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek
Sources:Landratsamt Berchtesgardener Land: Leaflet "Summer flu" (PDF, status 2014), lra-bgl.deBarmer: Healthy on hot days: Summer flu therefore has no chance (status: 14.06.2019), barmer.de H .-M. Jäck, GMN Behrens, S. Pöhlmann, M. Hoffmann, et al. : Increased neutralization resistance of emerging omicron subvariants BA.2.12.1, BA.4 and BA.5; in: The Lancet Infectious Diseases (2022) DOI: thelancet.comDeutsches Primatenzentrum - Leibniz Institute for Primate Research: The new omicron subvariants BA.2.12.1, BA.4 and BA.5 are less well inhibited by antibodies (published : 30/06/2022 ), dpz.euHKK: The myth of the summer flu? (Retrieved July 6, 2022), hkk.deÄrztliches Journal: "Summer flu" - coldly seen (from June 2020), aerztliches-journal.deAOK: Colds in summer: where the dangers lurk? (Status: September 15, 2021), aok.de
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot substitute a visit to the doctor.