Each year, it’s estimated that between 5 and 20 percent of the US population gets the flu, while 200,000 are hospitalized due to complications associated with the illness. Normally, it takes between 1 and 4 days to start to show symptoms of the flu once you’ve contracted the virus. The early signs of flu include fever or chills, headache, sore throat, dry cough, runny nose, muscle aches and fatigue. When you feel the onset of these symptoms, you can best help your body fight the flu by taking good care of yourself and getting plenty of rest. In addition, consider trying some effective home remedies to help ease your symptoms and strengthen your immune system.
How to Treat the Flu with Hydration
Becoming dehydrated is one of the major risks of the flu, especially if you experience vomiting or diarrhea. If you notice that your urine is dark yellow, this can be a sign that you are dehydrated. Drink plenty of water, fruit juice or beverages that contain electrolytes. Soup or broth are also good options. If you don’t feel like drinking a lot all at once, try to take small sips throughout the day.
Grandma Was Right: Chicken Soup Works
People have relied on hot soup to help reduce cold symptoms since the 12th century. There’s a good reason that this popular cure has persisted throughout the years: Doctors agree that soup helps you stay hydrated and speeds the release of mucous to help clear out your sinuses. Additionally, research has shown that chicken soup may have particular benefits for easing inflammation associated with the flu, which can help reduce associated upper respiratory tract symptoms.
Boost Your Immunity with Vitamin C
There’s a reason why many people reach for a glass of orange juice when they first start to get the sniffles. Vitamin C is one of the best ways to prevent and fight the flu as well as boost your immune system, and it’s also backed up by research. Although getting vitamins from whole foods like fruits and vegetables is usually the best way to meet your daily nutritional needs, you may need extra support when you’re feeling under the weather. Dr. Axe advises taking a supplement of 1000 mg of vitamin C a day to help prevent the flu and up to 4000 mg daily if you start to experience symptoms.
Add Some Honey to your Tea
Despite what you might read online, honey is not a not miracle cure for the flu. However, preliminary research has shown that manuka honey in particular may help inhibit the replication of the influenza virus. Honey can also help ease a sore throat and reduce coughs, which can help you feel more comfortable while your body fights the virus. However, you should never give honey to a child under the age of 1 because it can cause botulism.
Take an Echinacea or Elderberry Supplement
You’ve probably already seen it on the shelves of your local pharmacy in the cold and flu remedies section. Echinacea is an herb that has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce bronchial symptoms associated with the flu. It can also help boost your immune system, but for the best results, it’s advisable to start taking it as soon as you start to feel symptoms. You can find echinacea in different forms, such as tablets, teas or tinctures.
Elderberry is another herb that may have a beneficial effect on the immune system, reduce bronchial symptoms, alleviate sinus pain and fight the flu virus. You can find elderberry supplements in syrup, capsule and tablet form.
CBD Oil: Can it Help?
In recent years, CBD oil seems to be the hot new product that has been touted as a cure for many ailments. Although some of these uses have very little supporting evidence, CBD oil has pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties, which may make it a helpful option for alleviating the physical discomfort associated with the flu as well as for relieving sinus and respiratory symptoms.
Use a Humidifier and/or Essential Oils
Moist, humid air can help reduce sinus symptoms and nasal congestion. If you don’t have a humidifier, you can boil a pot of water, remove it from the stove, throw a towel over your head and breathe in the steam, or take a steamy shower for several minutes, which can also help alleviate muscle aches and pains. If you also happen to have an essential oil diffuser, add a few drops of a soothing essential oil like eucalyptus or a combination of eucalyptus and lemon to help open up your airways. You can also add the essential oils to your pot of steamy water and then inhale or to disperse the aroma throughout your home.
Important Considerations to Keep in Mind
Most people who get the flu don’t need to see a doctor. However, if you have a high risk of complications, have certain chronic medical conditions or your symptoms become worse or don’t get better after a few weeks, you should make an appointment with your doctor.
Stacy Mosel, LMSW is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and musician. She received a Bachelor's degree in Music from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1999 and a Master of Social Work from New York University in 2002. She has had extensive training in child and family therapy and the identification and treatment of substance abuse and mental health disorders.