Next time you hear "winter is coming," get ready with your vaccine and vitamin C, because that means the flu season will follow shortly.

Armed with scientific data from 20,000 virus samples and weather statistics, researchers from Sweden explained the connection between outdoor temperature and influenza outbreaks.

Cold Spell Signals Start Of Flu Season

The study compared the respiratory incidence from the medical record of patients in the Gothenburg area for three years against the weather reports from the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute.

The researchers discovered that influenza outbreaks consistently begin a week after the first cold spell of winter, when outdoor temperature and humidity are low.

"We believe that this sudden drop in temperature contributes to 'kick-start' the epidemic. Once the epidemic has started, it continues even if temperatures rise. Once people are sick and contagious, many more may become infected," said Nicklas Sundell, a researcher at Sahlgrenska Academy and infectious diseases specialist at Sahlgrenska University Hospital.

Virus Spread Faster In Cold And Dry Weather

Published in the Journal of Clinical Virology, the results of this study back up the long-standing theory that viruses attached to aerosol particles spread more rapidly during cold and dry season. In dry air, viruses absorb moisture and remain airborne.

The weather condition clues can also be used to predict and prevent other known viruses aside from the seasonal flu, such as RS-virus and coronavirus. With this new information, health officials can launch flu vaccine campaigns in advance and prepare emergency wards and hospital staff for a sudden influx of patients affected with the virus.

Flu Symptoms and Complications

One can experience influenza at different severities. It is usually mild, but can also progress into a serious disease that may lead to death.

The most common telltale signs of flu include a fever (although not all who have a flu will have a fever), cough, sore throat, runny nose, stuffy nose, muscle pain, and excessive fatigue. In some cases, especially in children, vomiting and diarrhea are also possible.

Typically, recovery from influenza usually takes only a few days to a couple of weeks. However, if the person's flu has led to complications like pneumonia or bronchitis, advanced medical attention is required.

How To Fight Flu Naturally

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted a slow but steady rise in reported flu cases for the months of November and early December.

Aside from getting your regular flu shots, strengthen your immune system so you don't make an easy target for the flu virus is also a logical strategy. Vitamin C and zinc are some supplements that may help boost your body's flu-fighting ability.

"Eat a healthy diet, take regular exercise, and drink plenty of warm drinks in the winter months," Dr. Hasmukh Joshi, vice chair of the Royal College of GPs, recommended.

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