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How can I recover from the flu faster?

lady pouring herbal tea
Looking for at-home flu remedies? Learn about the stages of the flu, treatment options, and home remedies to help alleviate symptoms and support recovery.
The good news is that influenza – or the flu – doesn’t last too long for most people. But, it can arrive suddenly and bring you down completely, meaning you might not be able to go to work, school or do your normal day-to-day activities until you feel better.

So, if there is a way to at least make the symptoms go away quickly, we all want to know about it! Keep reading to learn more about the flu, its symptoms, and some things you can do to help you feel better.

What is the flu?

The flu is a common respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect your nose, throat, and lungs. The symptoms can feel a bit like a common cold, but many say that flu symptoms come on more suddenly and more severely.2

Spread through coughing, sneezing, and even talking, the flu can spread very quickly from person to person. Babies, toddlers, people over 65, pregnant women, and people with chronic illnesses such as asthma or diabetes are at a greater risk of complications from influenza, like pneumonia.3

How long does the flu last?

For most people, the flu follows a fairly predictable pattern. Typically, during the first 3 days, you’ll get a sudden fever, headache, muscle pain and muscle weakness, a sore throat, a dry cough, and sometimes a runny or blocked nose.4

At around day 4, the fever and the muscle aches should start to decrease. The hoarse, dry, or sore throat may become more noticeable, along with the cough and some mild chest discomfort. You could also start to feel quite tired.4

By day 8, the symptoms should all be decreasing or gone, with the cough and tiredness holding out for a week or two.4

What are the symptoms of the flu?

Flu symptoms typically appear 1 to 4 days after exposure to the virus and can last for anywhere up to 8 days. Common flu symptoms include: 
  • A high temperature or fever 
  • A dry cough 
  • A sore throat 
  • A headache 
  • Feeling tired or fatigued 
  • Body aches 
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Nausea and being sick 
  • Diarrhoea and tummy pain 
  • Loss of appetite 
While the fever and other symptoms, such as a runny nose and sore throat, usually dissipate during this time, sometimes the cough can last longer than that, as can feeling fatigued.6


How to prevent getting the flu

The flu is very contagious and can pass from person to person really quickly. However, there are things you can do and healthy habits you can practice to help support your immune system and prevent you from getting the flu, or passing it on to others if you fall ill.

Here are 5 tips to help you protect yourself and others:

1. Get vaccinated 

Possibly the best way to reduce your risk of getting the flu is to get vaccinated every year.5

However, there are usually restrictions on who can have a flu vaccine. While it may vary between healthcare providers, the NHS offers flu vaccines for adults who:
  • Are 65 and over 
  • Have certain health conditions 
  • Are pregnant 
  • Are in long-term residential care 
  • Receive a carer’s allowance, or act as the main carer for someone at-risk 
  • Live with anyone who is at risk of complications from the flu 

The NHS also offers the flu vaccine to children aged 2 or 3, all primary school children, some secondary school children and children aged between 2 and 17 with certain health conditions.

2. Avoid close contact

Try and keep away from anyone unwell as much as you can. If you fall ill yourself, make sure to keep yourself away from others – avoid going to school, work or doing day-to-day activities, if possible, to prevent passing your illness on to others.4 

 3. Wash your hands

Regularly washing your hands with warm water and soap helps to keep the germs at bay, by removing dirt and bacteria, but you need to do more than just a quick rinse and dry. 

Follow these 6 easy handwashing tips:7

  • Wet your hands using clean, warm water 
  • Turn off the tap and apply your soap 
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap, making sure you cover the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails too 
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds 
  • Rinse your hands well with clean water 
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or let them air-dry

You can even throw a hand sanitiser into your bag to carry with you throughout the day – these are great if you get caught out somewhere with no soap and water, or just want to keep your hands clean throughout the day.8

It’s important to remember to wash your hands frequently, especially after using the toilet or changing a nappy, before you eat, after blowing your nose, sneezing, or coughing and after touching any animals, their food, or their immediate environments, like cages.8 

4. Catch it & bin it

If you need to cough or sneeze, make sure you do so into a tissue to help stop any droplets from spreading and infecting others. If you don’t have a tissue to hand, cough, or sneeze into the bend of your elbow and not your hand.

Afterwards, always throw away your used tissues, whether it’s putting them in the bin or flushing them away.5

5. Practice other healthy habits

Getting enough sleep, managing your stress levels, drinking plenty of fluids, eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly are all great ways to keep you and your body healthy.8,9,10,11

It is also so important to keep your space clean, by disinfecting surfaces regularly. Whether at home, school, or work, try to make sure you’re wiping down frequently used or touched areas to keep them clean, especially if you or someone else is ill.12

The best flu treatment

The best way to treat the flu, if you are not in an at-risk group, is to get lots of rest, keep yourself warm and drink plenty of liquids.5

Resting allows your body to use its energy to treat the infection, and fluids can replace those lost through sweating and a high fever. You can also take pain relievers for the fever, headaches, and other similar symptoms.5

If you’re concerned about your symptoms or are in an at-risk group, you should contact your doctor for help, support, and advice.

At-home remedies for the flu

If you’ve been struck down by the flu and feeling pretty rubbish, there are things you can do at home to help ease your symptoms. From taking a hot shower to drinking herbal tea, here are easy, home remedies you can try to help your symptoms.

Echinacea

Echinacea extracts are thought to help dull flu symptoms (and cold symptoms too).13

People mostly use echinacea as a traditional remedy for cold and flu symptoms such as stuffiness, sinus pressure, and sneezing. It is believed that echinacea may help to increase the number of white blood cells, which fight infections and are part of your body’s immune system.14

A few studies found that Echinacea could reduce the duration of cold symptoms if taken from the onset.15  However, a cold is different to the flu, and other studies have turned up different results.

Some studies found that Echinacea can help block the replication of influenza – something which you may not feel the benefit of if you have the flu, but which could help protect people who you are in contact with.16

Herbal tea

Herbal teas are a great way to relieve some flu symptoms. Not only are they relaxing and soothing, but the liquid helps to prevent dehydration, while the heat and steam can help relieve nasal congestion.17

Lemon and honey are great additions to any cup of tea. The texture of honey is believed to be a good tickly throat remedy by providing some relief if it’s feeling scratchy and sore.18

Black and green tea contains catechin, which can have some anti-diarrhoea effects. While turmeric, ginger, and garlic are thought to have great properties that can help you battle your symptoms.20,21,22

Hot showers

Steamy showers can be great for when you’re feeling a little stuffed up. The heat and steam from a hot shower can help moisturise and clear your nasal passages, as well as help to loosen any phlegm in your throat and open your airways.23

So next time you’re feeling a bit bunged up, try a hot, steamy shower to help you breathe easier!

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is thought to help decongest, making it beneficial for easing a blocked nose, and loosening phlegm in the throat.24

Why not try putting a few drops into an electronic oil diffuser and let the scent fill your space? If you don’t have a diffuser, you can pop a few drops onto a tissue and keep it next to your pillow or take it around with you to inhale the scent throughout your day.

The final say

The flu can make you feel awful, from the high temperature and the blocked nose to the mucus throat and chesty cough, but there are things you can do to help ease your symptoms – and some healthy habits that can help stop you from getting ill in the first place.

Sometimes though, coming down with a cold or the flu is inevitable, no matter how many precautions you take. It’s important to remember to get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids and keep yourself at home. If you are concerned about your symptoms or are someone who may be at risk of complications from the flu, it’s even more important to consult your doctor for advice.

Sources

1.       https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S002964651930009X?via%3Dihub

2.       https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/common-cold/

3.       https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2019/1215/p751.html

4.       https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/flu

5.       https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/flu/

6.       https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26519198/

7.       https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/best-way-to-wash-your-hands/

8.       https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7387807/

9.       https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/11/8/1933

10.    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6689741/

11.    https://www.nhsinform.scot/campaigns/hydration

12.     https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3746601/

13.    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4441164/

14.    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2362099/

15.    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0965229918312585

16.    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4058675/

17.    https://academicjournals.org/article/article1380529426_Hudson.pdf

18.    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32817011/

19.    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6076941/

20.    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0009279719308610?via%3Dihub

21.    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7644455/

22.    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26764332/

23.    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6483632/

24.    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7163989/

 

Disclaimer

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. Before taking any supplements or minerals, it’s best to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients through your diet first.
 

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