Tens of thousands of people in Switzerland catch the flu during the winter months each year, with cases peaking in January and February. In an interview, our physician Dr. Daniela Hahn explains why the flu is dangerous, how she treats it using telemedicine, and gives advice on how to prevent the flu.
Daniela, what are the typical symptoms of flu?
Flu symptoms often appear suddenly. In most cases, it causes a high fever of over 39°C (102°F), headaches, body aches, back pain and extreme fatigue. It can also bring on cold symptoms such as a sore throat, runny nose or a cough. The fever can last seven to 10 days. Influenza is caused by infection with a flu virus that is transmitted via respiratory droplets.
Why is the flu more dangerous than a common cold?
Several hundred people in Switzerland, and tens of thousands of people worldwide, die from the flu every year. In Germany, around 25,000 people died from genuine influenza in the winter of 2017/2018, making it one of the worst flu seasons in the past 30 years. Older people, patients with chronic illnesses and people with weakened immune systems are at particularly high risk of developing the disease.
How do you treat patients who call Medgate with suspected flu?
First, I ask them to describe their symptoms. If these indicate genuine flu and they don’t have any chronic illnesses, immune deficiency or other alarming symptoms, the patient can be treated via telemedicine.
What is your recommendation or treatment?
First and foremost, it is important for the patient to get plenty of rest and to drink enough fluids – around two liters (8.5 cups) per day. I also recommend chicken soup and ginger tea. Salt water inhalations can help a stuffy nose. I may also prescribe painkillers or nasal sprays, depending on the symptoms. Following the telemedicine consultation, the patient receives a written treatment plan. This plan also lists warning symptoms for which the affected person should contact Medgate. If necessary, I can also issue a medical certificate confirming that the patient is unable to work.
Why can influenza be treated effectively with telemedical care?
If the telemedicine physician can rule out all alarming symptoms, flu can be easily treated using telemedicine. The physician and patient arrange further consultations to continuously assess the patient’s state of health and adjust their treatment. If new symptoms or questions arise, the patient can contact Medgate at any time and receive competent advice and support.
In principle, treating flu using telemedical care makes sense because it prevents transmission through contact with other people in a medical setting or on public transport, and protects the flu patients.
Finally, do you have any advice on how to prevent the flu?
I generally recommend getting lots of fresh air, eating a diet rich in vitamins and washing your hands regularly. I would also recommend getting the flu vaccination in fall, especially people in an at-risk group (people aged 60 and over, chronically sick people, pregnant women and medical staff).
My personal tip: drink a shot of ginger every day! Peel 150 g (5.3 oz) fresh ginger and slice it finely. Peel, core and dice two apples, squeeze four oranges and one lemon, add a tablespoon of turmeric, and blend finely.