Flu Treatment at Home: A Guide to Caring for Yourself and Getting Better Faster

The flu can knock you off your feet and make you feel miserable. But with some simple at-home treatments, you can relieve your symptoms and recover more quickly. This guide will provide tips on flu treatment at home.

What is the Flu?

The flu, also known as influenza, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It affects the nose, throat, and sometimes lungs. Flu symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches, headaches, fatigue, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.

The flu spreads easily through droplets when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. You can also get the flu by touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching your nose, mouth or eyes. Flu season typically runs from October through May in the United States, with peak months being December through February.

Getting Plenty of Rest

The number one treatment for the flu is to get adequate rest. Staying in bed will help conserve your energy so your body can focus on fighting off the virus. Be sure to cancel any obligations you may have and give your body time to heal. Resting will help you feel better faster.

Aim for 8-10 hours of sleep per night. Go to bed early if you feel fatigued and allow your body to get extra rest. Take naps during the day if you are still feeling tired. The additional sleep will provide the energy boost your body needs.

Staying Hydrated

When you have the flu, it is essential to stay hydrated. The flu often leads to fever, chills, and sweating, which can result in dehydration. Dehydration causes headaches, dry mouth, dizziness, and fatigue.

Drink plenty of water, juice, or electrolyte drinks like Gatorade or Pedialyte. Warm liquids like broth, tea, and soup also count towards your fluid intake. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages which can be dehydrating. Aim to drink at least 8 glasses of fluids daily while you are sick.

Taking Medications

Certain over-the-counter medications can help relieve flu symptoms and make you more comfortable.

Cough suppressants can help control coughing. Look for ones containing dextromethorphan.

Expectorants like guaifenesin can help loosen mucus.

Pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can reduce fever, headaches, and body aches. Always follow dosing directions carefully.

Decongestants found in multi-symptom flu medicines can help unclog a stuffy nose. Pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine are common options.

Talk to your doctor before taking medications if you have underlying medical conditions or concerns about side effects or interactions.

Using a Humidifier

Running a cool mist humidifier in your bedroom at night can provide relief when you have the flu. The increased moisture in the air helps ease breathing issues from congestion. It also helps soothe coughs and sore throat pain. Be sure to clean and disinfect your humidifier regularly.

You can also sit in the bathroom with a hot shower running to create a steamy environment and naturally humidify the air. Breathing in the warm, moist air can provide temporary relief.

Trying Home Remedies

For centuries people have used natural ingredients from around the house to help treat cold and flu symptoms. Although home remedies are not scientifically proven, many people find them soothing. Popular options include:

  • Honey tea – Mix honey into hot tea to coat and soothe an irritated throat. Honey has antimicrobial effects.
  • Chicken soup – Warm broth provides fluids and the steam can help clear nasal congestion. Soup may also have an anti-inflammatory effect.
  • Saltwater gargle – Gargling with warm saltwater can rinse away mucus and relieve sore throat.
  • Hot compresses – Placing a warm, moist cloth over your face or forehead may lessen headache and facial pain.
  • Essential oils – Oils like eucalyptus, peppermint and tea tree added to hot water or a diffuser may help open nasal passages.

Always dilute essential oils before trying. Discontinue use if any irritation occurs.

Trying Over-the-Counter Flu Medicine

Taking an OTC flu medicine can help ease a multitude of symptoms in one medication. Look for ones that specifically state they are for flu or influenza. Combination medications target various symptoms:

  • Fever and body aches: Contain acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce these symptoms.
  • Coughing: Have cough suppressants like dextromethorphan.
  • Congestion: Include decongestants like phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine.
  • Sore throat: May have an added pain reliever for throat.

Make sure to follow dosing directions. Only take one product at a time to avoid doubling up on medications. Contact your doctor if symptoms get significantly worse.

Getting Plenty of Nutrition

It can be difficult to have an appetite when you’re sick with the flu. But nourishing your body with nutritious foods will help strengthen your immune system and speed healing.

Focus on smooth, easy to digest foods. Soups, broths, yogurts, applesauce, and gelatin are good options. Stay hydrated with water, juices, electrolyte drinks, tea, and soup.

Foods rich in vitamin C (citrus fruits, peppers, strawberries), zinc (nuts, seeds, legumes, beef), and protein (eggs, lean meats) are great choices when recovering from the flu.

Knowing When to Seek Medical Care

Most cases of the flu can be managed with at-home rest and treatment. But certain symptoms may be a sign you need medical care:

  • High fever over 104 °F
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Lips or face turning blue
  • Confusion or inability to wake up
  • Severe vomiting, diarrhea or dehydration
  • Flu symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

Seek prompt medical attention if you or a family member has any of these symptoms, especially children, seniors, pregnant women, or those with chronic medical conditions.

Preventing the Flu Through Good Health Habits

You can avoid getting the flu in the first place by practicing good health habits during flu season:

  • Get a yearly flu vaccine – This is the best way to protect yourself each flu season.
  • Wash hands frequently – Wash often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your face – Viruses enter the body through the eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean surfaces – Use disinfecting wipes or sprays to kill viruses that may be lingering on surfaces.
  • Avoid sick people – Keep your distance from others who are ill to avoid exposure.
  • Don’t go to work or school if you are sick – Stay home to rest and prevent spreading the illness.

In Conclusion

Having the flu can make you feel terrible. Flu treatment at home focus on resting to help your body heal. Use over-the-counter medications as directed. Try natural remedies for additional relief. Seek medical attention if symptoms do not improve or get worse. With proper at-home treatment, you should recover within 7-10 days. Prevent flu in the future by getting the yearly vaccine and following good health habits.

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