|The flu (influenza) is a severe version of the common cold and both are caused by a viral infection. While lots of people with colds diagnose themselves as having flu, nobody with a flu would ever declare themselves to have a cold. The symptoms of flu are severe enough to warrant bed rest for at least 2 or 3 days, although it usually takes about 10 days before a person is strong enough to resume normal activities. Depression is common in the weeks after an attack because the body has been under a lot of stress in fighting the infection.
Related: Do I have a cold or the flu?
What Is The Treatment For Flu?
In a nutshell the best treatment for flu is bed rest, plenty of fluids and aspirin or paracetamol. There is no cure for flu, but some over-the-counter medicines and remedies can help alleviate symptoms. Which medicines you take depends on your symptoms (do you have a cough, blocked nose or sore throat, for example?).
13 Tips For Treating Flu
1. Bed Rest
Take a few days off work or school and stay in bed. Bed rest is essential because it allows your body to divert energy to fighting the virus. Most people with flu will naturally crave sleep and rest.
2. Drink Plenty Of Fluids
Increase your fluid intake by up to 10 glasses of water a day. If you have problems drinking water, fruit juices are an alternative. When you have a fever you sweat more and there is a risk of dehydration. Sip fluids regularly, even if you do not feel thirsty. Fluids also help keep the lymphatic system running efficiently.
3. Avoid Combination Medications
Avoid medications that offer a 'one-stop-shop' for treating all flu symptoms. These formulas cost much more than single ingredient medicines and increase the risk of side effects. Instead, choose a medication that specifically addresses the symptom you have. That may mean a nasal spray for a blocked nose and/or cough medicine for a cough, for example.
4.Treatment For Blocked Nose
Traditionally decongestants have been the first line of treatment for a blocked nose. Nasal sprays such as Dristan, Afrin and Neosynephrine tend to be more effective than oral sprays like Sudafed. However nasal sprays should not be used longer than 3 to 5 days or they may have the adverse effect and make congestion worse. Oral sprays can however be used for up to several weeks. Alternatively you could use a saline spray instead of a medicated spray. Saline sprays help unblock noses and can be used for extended periods of time without significant side effects. Additionally, while you have flu, avoid mucus forming foods such as full fat dairy produce and chocolate.
5. Steam Inhalation
A blocked nose, cough and headache can be relieved by steam inhalation. Pour a teaspoon of eucalyptus or menthol oil into a bowel of boiling water then inhale the steam under a towel. Do this for at least 10 minutes, 3 times a day.
6. Stopping A Runny Nose
Antihistamines are sometimes helpful for sneezing and a runny nose, although they can cause drowsiness.
7. Treating Headaches And Muscle Aches
Tylenol or aspirin can help soothe body aches, headaches and fever. Ibuprofen (Nuprin, Advil, Motrin IB) may also be taken but anecdotically some patients report it made their fever worse.
8. Treating Coughs
If you have a cough that keeps you awake, consider taking a cough suppressant such as Benylin DM or Robitussin DM. A cough that occurs for hours and is not controlled my a suppressant - or any breathing difficulties or wheezing - should be reported to your doctor. Asthma can sometimes develop out of the blue in people with flu that has developed into a respiratory infection. For more, how to treat coughs.
9. Treating Sore Throats
A study in 1996 showed that zinc gluconate lozenges reduced the severity of cold and flu symptoms. Try sucking on lozenges that contain 15 to 25mg of zinc such as the brand Cold-Eeze. Take 1 every 3 to 4 hours. The zinc may help kill bacteria lurking in the throat. Alternatively dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 pint of warm water and gargle. This gives some relief and washes out lurking germs. For more, how to treat sore throats.
10. Chicken Soup
A traditional remedy for flu and colds is a soup made with 6 chopped onions, one whole garlic, 1 inch (2.5cm) of fresh ginger, a sprinkle of cayenne pepper and a chicken stock cube. Mix all the ingredients and boil in some water. You could also add some lemon grass.
11. Vitamin C Supplement
Vitamin C is strongly anti-viral. Although the effectiveness of vitamin C in treating flu is in question, many proponents still advise taking a daily dose to shorten the severity and duration of an attack.
12. Eat Licorice
Sugar-free licorice eaten as candy or made into tea has excellent anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. It will help soothe an inflamed sore throat.
13. New Toothbrush
Replace your toothbrush 2 or 3 days after the onset of flu. The damp bristles of a toothbrush are a breeding ground for viruses and you could end up reinfecting yourself.
Can Antibiotics Help Flu?
No, antibiotics cannot help flu symptoms. The flu is a viral infection and antibiotics only treat bacterial infections. Taking antibiotics when not needed can increase your risk of an infection that may later resist antibiotic treatment. Only if your flu develops into a secondary infection, such as a chest infection, should antibiotics be considered.
Flu In Pregnancy
Flu during pregnancy: What are the symptoms and how is it treated?
Is the flu dangerous during pregnancy?
Tylenol while pregnant: Is it safe?
Aspirin during pregnancy: Is it safe to be taken?
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