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How To Fight The Flu

Navigating Symptoms Of The Flu

Camille Freking, MS Pharmacology Profile Photo

Written by Camille Freking, MS Pharmacology on December 20, 2021

Most people will come down with the flu at some point or another in their lives, and the illness can leave you feeling terrible fast. If you’re wondering how to fight the flu, there are a number of natural remedies that you can try to help reduce the amount of time you spend sick.

What Is Influenza?

Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is a contagious disease caused by a family of viruses known as influenza viruses. The flu is an airborne virus that can pass from person to person when an infected individual sneezes, coughs, or speaks, spreading the virus through particles of water vapor that are released from the nose and mouth.

Symptoms of the flu can affect the entire body and may range from mild to severe. For some people, including very young, very old, or immunocompromised individuals, the flu can be potentially life threatening.

What Are the Symptoms of the Flu?

Each person experiences the symptoms of the flu differently. Symptoms of the flu can range from mild to severe, and these symptoms can develop quickly over the course of a few days.

Symptoms commonly associated with the flu include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy nose
  • Headaches
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle aches
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue or extreme tiredness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

While many people consider a fever to be the primary differentiating symptom between the flu and a cold, it’s important to note that not all people with the flu will have a fever. Additionally, vomiting and diarrhea are more commonly observed in children who have the flu rather than adults.

How Does the Flu Spread From Person to Person?

The main way that the flu virus spreads from person to person is through tiny droplets of water vapor that are released into the air when an infected person coughs, speaks, or sneezes. These tiny droplets contain the virus, which is made up of a core of genetic material (RNA) surrounded by a protective coating of fats and oils called lipids.

People nearby may inhale the droplets when breathing, leading to infection. It’s also possible to get the flu by touching a surface that an infected person has touched if they have recently coughed or sneezed into their hands. That’s why it is so important to wash your hands regularly, particularly after touching common surfaces like doorknobs.

How Can You Fight the Flu?

Symptoms of the flu tend to come on suddenly and can make you feel very ill in a short period of time. If you find yourself feeling sick and suspect that it may be the flu, try these tips to fight the flu.

Get Plenty of Rest

One of the most important things you can do for yourself if you think you may be sick with the flu is to get plenty of rest. While many people are tempted to push through illness and try to continue with their normal routines, getting enough sleep is critical in supporting your immune system in the fight against the flu.

Try to rest away from other people and avoid contact with others until you have been fever-free without the help of fever-reducing medications like acetaminophen for 24 to 48 hours. This is the best way to minimize the amount of time you spend feeling sick.

It may also help to sleep with your head propped up in order to encourage mucus to drain from the nasal passages, reducing congestion.

Try Homeopathic Remedies or Clean Medicine

Homeopathic remedies use naturally occurring ingredients to support overall health and address symptoms associated with the flu. Try using anorganic homeopathic remedy specifically formulated to address symptoms associated with the flu.

Alternatively, you can choose to use clean medicine, which is medicine that still uses proven active ingredients to help combat symptoms, but doesn't use artificial inactive ingredients, and uses real ingredients instead.

Try Zinc

Using zinc lozenges at the first sign of flu symptoms may help support the immune system, according to some studies. While most of the clinical trials around the use of oral zinc have focused on the effects of the nutrient on the common cold, it appears that zinc may help support a healthy immune system, which could help you get better more quickly.

Be sure to avoid intranasal zinc administered in the form of nasal sprays or nasal swabs, as it can contribute to permanent loss of smell. Although the jury is still out on the effectiveness of oral zinc, using oral zinc lozenges at the first sign of illness may help some people.

Eat Chicken Soup

If you remember being given chicken soup as a kid when you were sick, it turns out that there is scientific evidence to support its effectiveness in helping you feel better.

Studies have shown that a compound in the soup called carnosine may help support the immune system to fight off the flu early in the onset of symptoms, and some suggest that chicken soup has anti-inflammatory effects.

In addition to containing beneficial nutrients and compounds, hot liquids like chicken soup can also help to reduce nasal congestion by opening up the nasal passages and improving drainage. The broth in chicken soup helps keep you hydrated and can also soothe a sore throat.

Take a Hot Shower

Along the same lines as using hot liquids to reduce congestion and improve drainage, the steam from a hot shower can also help with congestion.

Taking a long, hot (not scalding) shower or bath adds moisture to your nasal passages and airways and can help make mucus thinner and looser, making it easier to expel when coughing or sneezing. If you are helping a child with the flu or you are feeling light-headed or weak, consider running the hot water in the bathtub or shower and simply sitting in the steamy bathroom breathing as deeply as possible for a period of about 10 minutes.

Gargle With Salt Water

Gargling with a warm salt water solution can make a big difference when it comes to soothing a sore throat. In addition to soothing a painful and irritated throat, gargling on a regular basis may help to reduce inflammation and loosen and thin the mucus in the back of the throat, making it easier to cough up. A salt water solution may also help to flush out irritants from the throat, thereby helping to quiet a cough.

Drink Plenty of Clear Liquids

One of the most important ways to fight the flu is to stay hydrated, which can be a challenge when you’re sick. The higher body temperatures associated with a fever is dehydrating, and people experiencing vomiting or diarrhea also are at increased risk of dehydration.

When you’re dehydrated, your immune system is less capable of fighting the virus that’s making you sick, which can prolong your illness. Additionally, dehydration causes the mucus in the airways to become thicker and drier, making it more challenging to expel from the body. As a result, you may find that you’re more congested and have a harder time breathing.

The best way to fight dehydration is to take small sips of clear liquids like water or electrolyte drinks at frequent intervals throughout the day.

Use a Neti Pot To Reduce Congestion

One of the most common and troublesome symptoms of the flu is increased nasal congestion, which makes it difficult to breathe. A simple, natural way to clear congestion is using a neti pot.

This small container, shaped like a teapot, is filled with water and used to flush out the sinuses.

To use a neti pot, fill the container with a saline solution or water using distilled and sterilized water. Next, position your head over the sink and place the spout in one nostril, tipping the container up to start the flow of water into the nostrils.

Mucus and irritants trapped in the sinuses will be flushed out the other side. You can use the neti pot several times a day to help clear out congestion.

When Should You Contact a Doctor About the Flu?

While natural remedies are sufficient to help most people recover from the flu, there are some situations where it may be necessary to seek medical attention.

Most people start to feel better within about five to seven days after first developing symptoms, so contact a doctor if you are not feeling better after this time. Additionally, a fever above 103 degrees or a prolonged fever is a cause for medical attention.

Contact your doctor if you are having trouble breathing or feel like your symptoms are getting worse. The flu should be taken seriously, as it can be life-threatening and can lead to complications like pneumonia. Immunocompromised individuals, the very young, and very old are more likely to experience complications from the flu.

Summary

The flu is a viral illness that causes a sudden onset of symptoms like fever, body aches, runny or stuffy nose, cough, and sore throat. Most people are able to recover using natural remedies to fight the flu, such as getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, using a neti pot to reduce congestion, or taking a hot shower.

If you do not start to feel better within five to seven days of developing symptoms, seek medical attention from a healthcare provider.



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