Summer flu: what helps and how to protect yourself?

In summer, barbecues, ice cream parlors and bathing lakes call for. But just when you don’t expect it at all, your body suddenly goes limp. The problem: summer flu. Where it actually comes from and how to get rid of it as quickly as possible, you can find out here.

You can catch a cold even in summer

The nose is running, the head is aching and one feels weak and tired. Nothing unusual in winter – but even in summer, a nasty cold can settle in and keep us going for days on end. What the myth of the summer flu is actually about, where this cold comes from and what you can do about it, you can find out here.

In summer: no flu but a cold

If you think you’re suffering from summer flu, what you really mean is a cold. A real flu – also called influenza – is an acute illness of the respiratory tract that can even be life-threatening and is triggered by influenza viruses, informs the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA). The signs of such a flu, however, could actually coincide with those of a cold – or vernacular summer flu.

According to the BZgA, for example, both conditions would cause sore throats, coughs, headaches or even colds. With influenza, however, one must additionally expect a high fever – usually over 39 degrees. "The big difference from the common cold is the aftereffects that such a highly contagious influenza can have," explains Matthias Berndt, a general practitioner in Hanover, Germany. In the worst case scenario, these could lead to heart muscle inflammation.

Sick in summer – Why just now?

Instead of enjoying the sun, you feel miserable and don’t want to leave the house at all. "In winter, significantly more people have colds than in summer," says the general practitioner. But in summer, air conditioning is often to blame for the colds we have to deal with.

The warmer it is, the more everything in us screams for cooling down. "People sometimes set their air conditioners way too high," Berndt also says. "The body adjusts to warmer temperatures due to the heat outside, all the body’s energy is then brought to conserve heat and then you can get sick easily."

Weak immune system due to sports

Open car windows can also be a culprit – or any drafts we expose ourselves to. Excessive sunbathing or sports at high temperatures also contribute to weakening the immune system. Once the body’s defense system is under attack, viruses find it much easier to invade our bodies and make us sick.

Recover quickly: What you can do

When we catch a cold, in the worst case we can’t even get out of bed. "The important thing now is to make sure that the body really gets rest," says Matthias Berndt. As with a real flu, the body needs time to recover and strengthen the immune system again. Drinking enough is also very important. Anti-inflammatory teas such as chamomile and sage tea or defense-strengthening infusions with ginger help then, so that one feels faster fit again.

If your nose is stuffy and your head hurts, inhaling steam can also help. Simply add eucalyptus oil – to loosen mucus – or chamomile tea to hot water and hold your head over it with a towel. Inhale the hot steam for five to ten minutes and repeat up to three times a day if needed.

Stay healthy: What to look out for?

To avoid catching a cold in the summer and to be able to lie by the lake with friends and family again during the next heat wave, you should not set the air conditioners too low: The difference to the outside temperature should in no case be too high, confirms Matthias Berndt. Exercise also helps to strengthen the immune system. But: Wet sweaty clothes should always be taken off as soon as possible.

The nutrition plays likewise an important role, in order to strengthen the immune system, informs also the consumer center Baden-Wuerttemberg. Drinking enough water and eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can help you beat the summer flu. Vitamin D stores are replenished by time in the sun – but too much sun weakens us again. A healthy balance ensures that we feel better and do not get sick so quickly.

And another tip: "If you avoid sleep deprivation, you will be afflicted by fewer infections," Berndt notes.

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