Most adults can treat their flu symptoms at home and don’t need a visit to the doctor’s office to recover. If you’re looking to ease your flu symptoms from home, these time-tested remedies can help you find relief:1,2
- Rest. Getting extra sleep at night can help your body’s immune system fight off infection and heal.
- Hydrate. Sipping on water, warm lemon water, tea, juice, or broth throughout the day will help prevent dehydration and loosen your congestion. Avoid dehydrating drinks like caffeinated beverages and alcohol.
- Take a pain reliever. Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help relieve body aches that come with the flu.
- Gargle with salt water. Soothe a sore, scratchy throat by gargling with a DIY saltwater solution. Combine 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of table salt with 4 to 8 ounces of warm water. Gargle with the solution then spit it out.
- Eat chicken soup. Chicken soup is a great-tasting way to soothe your sinuses. In addition to loosening congestion, chicken soup has been shown to aid in recovery by helping overactive white blood cells settle down.
- Add a humidifier. Make sure your room is warm and cozy, but not too hot. Since dry air can exacerbate your symptoms, add a humidifier or vaporizer to your room to keep your sinuses moist.
- Take honey before bed. Studies indicate that ½ to 2 teaspoons of honey before bed can help suppress nighttime coughing and improve sleep in children. Remember that honey should never be given to children under the age of one.3
- Take a zinc supplement. Some studies have shown that taking 9 to 24 mg of elemental zinc every 2 hours within 48 hours of getting sick can shorten your symptoms by about a 1 and ½ days. Avoid taking more than the necessary amount of zinc as it can deplete your copper stores after time.3
- Make a soothing cup of Theraflu. The warming liquid in Theraflu can provide soothing comfort, while its medicine helps alleviate sore throat pain.
- Get relief with Theraflu syrup. Theraflu Expressmax Severe Cold & Flu Syrup treats your fever, cough, nasal congestion, and sore throat pain with powerful cold and flu relief.
When Do I Need to See a Doctor?
While most adults can rest at home until they’ve recovered from their flu, sometimes the severity of your symptoms warrant a trip to the doctor’s office. Seek medical attention right away if you’re experiencing any of the following emergency flu symptoms:4
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Ongoing dizziness
- Pain in your chest
- Worsening of pre-existing medical conditions
- Extreme weakness and muscle pain
How Does the Flu Spread?
Flu viruses are spread in the air via droplets that get expelled when an infected person coughs or sneezes. You can inhale the droplets directly, or you can get sick by touching a surface with droplets and subsequently touching your face.5 People who have the flu are usually contagious one day before their first symptoms to five days later. Depending on your immune system, you could be contagious for upwards of ten days after your first flu symptoms.5
The influenza viruses in circulation change every flu season. If you’ve had the flu in the past, then your body has built up an immunity to that strain of the virus. If future strains of the virus look like the one you recovered from, then your antibodies can protect you against the infection or the infection will be less severe.6 However, your immunity to a previous strain of the flu can’t protect you against new types of the flu virus that differ from the one you previously had.6
The flu vaccine is your best defense against the flu and complications from the flu. After you get vaccinated, your body builds up antibodies around two weeks later to help protect you against the viruses. Research is conducted to see which strains of the virus will be in circulation that year, and the vaccine is created to protect against those strains. Flu vaccines in the United States are quadrivalent vaccines, meaning they protect against four different types of the flu virus. The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of six months get a yearly flu vaccine, with very few exceptions.6 There are a few different vaccine options to choose from, so contact your doctor or healthcare professional if you have questions about which option is best for you.
1. Influenza (flu) - Diagnosis and treatment. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/flu/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20351725. Accessed 10/27/21.
2. Cold remedies: What works, what doesn't, what can't hurt. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/in-depth/cold-remedies/art-20046403. Accessed 10/27/21.
3. Do favorite cold and flu remedies actually work? | News | UW Health. https://www.uwhealth.org/news/do-favorite-cold-and-flu-remedies-actually-work. Accessed 10/27/21.
4. Influenza (flu) - Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/flu/symptoms-causes/syc-20351719. Accessed 10/27/21.
5 Cold and Influenza. APIC. https://apic.org/monthly_alerts/cold-and-influenza/. Accessed 10/27/21.
6. Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/keyfacts.htm. Accessed 10/27/21.