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Influenza, or flu, is an upper respiratory tract infection caused by the influenza virus that spreads easily from person to person through airborne respiratory droplets, often resulting in a full-blown outbreak.
The responsibility to contain a flu outbreak has to be shared by everyone, including those who have the illness and those who are at risk of getting infected.
Use Home Remedies
Here are some remedies that have helped many users cope with flu symptoms and, therefore may prove beneficial to you too.
However, there isn’t enough scientific evidence to establish the safety and efficacy of these interventions, which is why it’s better to consult your doctor before trying them.
1. Take probiotics
Probiotics are essentially live bacteria and yeast that are akin to the healthy microorganisms found in the human gut. Consuming probiotics is an easy way to restore the balance between helpful and harmful gut bacteria.
You can avail yourself of these probiotics in the form of dietary supplements, suppositories, creams, and fermented foods. Some foods that are replete with probiotics include:
Probiotic consumption helps to fortify your body’s natural defenses against infections such as influenza.
Besides keeping the harmful bacteria in check, probiotics have been found to increase the production of natural antibodies in the body. As a result, your body becomes better equipped to fight off the virus. According to one study, this favorable effect was more profound in children who were not vaccinated against the virus. (1)(2)(3)(4)
One cannot expect to fight the flu by consuming probiotics alone. This supportive remedy will only yield positive results when performed in conjunction with standard inoculation.
The oral administration of probiotics may help enhance the protective effect of the influenza vaccine.
2. Meet your vitamin needs
Vitamin D is essential for the proper functioning of your immune system, but most people run low on this vital nutrient. Your body needs sunlight to synthesize vitamin D, which becomes minimal during winters when you spend most of your time indoors.
Supplementation of this nutrient during the winter may provide added protection against influenza A and other acute respiratory tract infections. (5)
However, research on the topic has produced conflicting results, with some studies attesting to the benefits of this adjunctive nutritional therapy for reducing the risk of respiratory tract infections in children, (5) while others dismissing such claims. (6)
Vitamin C is yet another vital nutrient that facilitates various body functions and provides various health benefits. It is considered to be one of the most powerful antioxidants that can help bolster your body’s disease-fighting capabilities. (7)
It has also been found especially helpful in reducing the intensity and frequency of upper respiratory tract infections, including the flu. (7)
How to use:
- Ask your doctor to start you on a vitamin D supplement, but stick to the prescribed dosage as an excess of this nutrient can prove harmful.
- You can consume foods fortified with vitamin D as well as part of your regular diet.
- You can derive your recommended daily intake of vitamin C from citrus fruits such as lime, oranges, and grapefruits as well as green leafy vegetables.
- Add lemon juice and honey to a simmering cup of black tea and drink this soothing beverage to relieve a sore throat and curb phlegm production when you are down with flu.
- It’s best to get these vitamins through food sources first and opt for supplementation only when your diet fails to deliver the required amounts. Always consult your doctor before trying supplements for the correct dosage.
Vitamins D and C can help strengthen your immune system and ease flu symptoms when taken in the right amounts as part of an overall healthy and well-balanced diet.
3. Use a humidifier
The flu virus tends to flourish in dry air and does not fare as well in damp environments. For this reason, consider using a humidifier to impart moisture to indoor air, especially when you have the air conditioner or indoor heater on. (8)
Note: Make sure to clean the humidifier regularly to prevent mold growth.
4. Try ginger and garlic
Garlic is credited with antiviral and antibacterial properties that may help your body fight the flu better in the early stages and keep it from getting worse. Also, garlic produces heat in the body, which can help kill the virus.
Ginger is another pungent ingredient that is known for various therapeutic properties, one being its ability to curb mucus secretions, making it useful for treating cold and flu. (9)
How to use:
a. Steam inhalation
- Mix 1 teaspoon of ginger/garlic in pint of water, bring it to a boil and then turn off the flame.
- Let the water cool down a bit such that the temperature of the steam is mild enough for your skin.
- Lean your face over the pot with a towel over your head to trap the vapors.
- Deeply inhale the steam for several minutes or until the steam dies down.
- Repeat this process as needed.
- Consume more of ginger and garlic in your regular diet to reap their antiviral benefits.
- Drink hot ginger tea to soothe your throat, thin out the mucus, and open up your airways.
5. Drink diluted apple cider vinegar
The influenza virus tends to thrive in an acidic environment but does not fare so well in one that is alkaline.
Thus, consuming alkaline foods and drinks such as apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a simple way to make your internal system unfavorable for the growth of the influenza virus.
Moreover, unfiltered ACV contains healthy bacteria in the form of “the mother,” which can help enhance your immune system. However, this intervention has virtually no scientific backing and derives legitimacy from anecdotal support.
How to use:
- Add 2 teaspoons ACV and 1–2 teaspoons of honey in about 6 ounces of water.
- Stir the mixture until all the ingredients are sufficiently dissolved and drink this formula once a day.
Caution: ACV is mildly acidic but can damage your body if taken in concentrated amounts. Thus, you must always dilute the acid in some water before using it.
6. Have some chicken soup
Chicken soup has traditionally been used as a pick-me-up to overcome various illnesses, but there isn’t much scientific backing for this remedy. However, one cannot dismiss the overwhelming anecdotal support for this remedy, especially for coping with infections such as cold and flu.
This warm, nourishing liquid can help your ailing body recuperate by giving it some much-needed strength to fight infections, especially cold and flu.
Consuming hot fluids helps dissolve the coagulated mucus within your respiratory system to restore normal breathing. It may help inhibit the excessive crowding of white blood cells in response to the virus, which leads to inflammation and overproduction of mucus.
You can amp up the infection-fighting potential of this remedy by adding freshly chopped garlic to the broth.
7. Consume honey
Honey is a popular home remedy for managing upper respiratory tract infections such as the flu, but rigorous studies are needed to understand its exact mechanism, safety, and effectiveness in this regard.
This sweet-tasting nectar is known to exhibit antibacterial, antiviral, and immune-boosting properties that may help shorten the duration of the infection and ease its symptoms, such as a sore throat. (10)
How to use:
- Consume 1 tablespoon of raw honey three times a day.
- Alternatively, you can soothe your painful throat and clear airways by drinking black tea infused with a bit of honey and lemon juice several times a day.
8. Try medicinal herbs
Certain herbs are renowned for their pharmacological potential, which can be utilized for relieving coughs, colds, and flu, but only after consulting with a doctor.
In fact, these herbs have been used anecdotally for quite some time, delivering considerable relief to many people battling the flu. However, further studies are needed to establish just how effective they truly are. (11)
Menthol derived from the peppermint herb has been used in cough syrups and candies to soothe a sore throat and reduce respiratory congestion. (12)
The minty flavor and aroma of this herb help calm your body, including your scratchy, painful throat caused by a persistent dry cough. It may also help breakdown the mucus or phlegm to clear your airways.
How to use:
You can use herbal tea extracts to prepare a tea. These extracts are easily available on the market, either as loose powders, or tea bags. But make sure to consume this beverage in recommended amounts to avoid any side effects.
9. Drink a turmeric and milk tonic
Turmeric mixed in warm milk is a tried-and-tested tonic for relieving common cold symptoms. By this logic, this remedy may prove helpful in managing the similar symptoms brought on by a flu infection. (16)
Although many general users have reported positive results after using this remedy, it remains unverified by science and cannot be taken as a guaranteed cure for flu symptoms. You will have to try the drink for yourself to see if it works for you or not, but discontinue its use if you notice any kind of adverse reaction.
10. Use a wet washcloth to cool down your body from the outside
One of the simplest and most popular ways to relieve a fever without the use of medication is by applying a cool, damp washcloth on your forehead and neck. However, this topical therapy merely cools down the surface of the body temporarily without reducing the core temperature.
The fever will go away for good only when the infection resolves, but in the meantime, you can use home remedies like this to reduce your discomfort. The idea is to use tepid water, which will be much colder than your feverish body and will help to bring down your core temperature gradually.
How to use:
- Take a clean washcloth or towel and soak it in room temperature (19–24°C) water.
- Wring the excess water, and wipe the forehead and neck of the patient with the damp cloth until the body fever subsides.
- You can also wrap the cloth around the patient’s legs or leave it on their forehead/neck for some time.
Note: The body does not react well to sudden or extreme temperature changes. If you apply an icy cold compress on your heated body, your internal thermoregulatory system will further increase the body heat to counter the sudden change in temperature.
11. Coconut oil
Coconut oil is mostly preferred as a topical oil rather than for cooking, but you can consume limited amounts to optimize its inherent antimicrobial properties against the flu.
Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which can penetrate the lipid shield around the virus to destroy it from within. Measured intake of coconut oil can also help boost your immune system to fight the flu better and reduce its symptoms. (17)
How to use:
Use small amounts of coconut oil as a salad dressing or in regular cooking.
12. Go for a salt water bath
Another therapy that is commonly cited on the internet for relieving various kinds of common body aches is an Epsom salt bath.
Many users registered significant relief from their flu symptoms after trying this soothing bath, but there aren’t enough scientific studies to confirm these claims.
It is generally said that soaking your infected body in Epsom salt can help you relax, heal, and detoxify by increasing your white blood cell count.
Self-Care and Home Management
Find protection and relief from the flu with these tips and home remedies.
1. Implement the following lifestyle changes and self-care measures
Protect yourself from the flu infection by following these self-care measures:
- If you feel like you are coming down with the flu, rest for at least a day to see if the symptoms subside.
- You must wear surgical gloves when tending to a person who has the flu. This precautionary measure will help keep your hands from getting contaminated.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who is diagnosed with the flu. The adage “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure” fits perfectly for a condition like the flu.
- Do not share a bed with someone who has the flu.
- Consume sufficient fluids throughout the day to keep your body hydrated at all times. A well-hydrated body is better equipped to fight infections.
- Stay away from crowded places when the flu is in the air.
- Keep your toothbrush in a case or cover its head with one and store it in a closed bathroom cabinet.
- Avoid sharing food and drinks as well as eating and drinking utensils with infected people.
- The importance of proper sleep and rest cannot be stressed enough when coping with flu infection.
- Regularly engage in some form of light physical exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.
- Stress management is essential to keep your immune system functioning at its best. It also helps in alkalizing the body’s internal environment, making it inhospitable for the flu virus. People who are prone to stress and anxiety tend to have an acidic body environment. Meditative exercises, when practiced regularly, can help you in this regard. (18)
- Limit your intake of alcohol or avoid it entirely.
- Give up smoking as soon as possible. Steer clear of secondhand smoke as well.
- Consume immunity-boosting fruits and vegetables as part of your everyday diet. Proper nutrition helps strengthen your body from within and fortifies your immune response against the flu.
2. Maintain proper hygiene
a. Cover your mouth and nose every time you cough or sneeze
You must cover your mouth and nose with a tissue the minute you feel a sneeze or cough coming on. You may use your hands to cover your mouth or sneeze into your elbow if nothing else is available.
The smaller the cough or sneeze, the more forcefully the droplets are ejected and the farther they travel. This was corroborated by a 2014 study published in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics. (19)
It is best to discard the used tissue straight into the trash. Carrying the contaminated tissue with you or leaving it elsewhere can transfer the virus to other surfaces, objects, or people.
Moreover, always wash your hands as much as possible after you sneeze or cough.
b. Wear a face mask
You can never be too careful when it comes to the flu, as the disease is highly contagious and is present in the very air you breathe. The flu viruses enter your system through the nose or mouth.
Covering these access points with a mask may help block the airborne droplets released by someone who is ill, thereby preventing you from contracting the infection.
People with the flu should also be made to wear a face mask to limit the number of germs they release when they cough, sneeze, speak, or breathe. (20)
c. Wash your hands often
Wash your hands regularly with a disinfectant soap and clean running water, especially before touching your face or sitting down for a meal.
Your hands tend to get contaminated after you sneeze or cough into your hands or touch any surface or object that may carry the virus. Touching your eyes, mouth, or nose with the same hands can grant easy entry to the virus into your system through these primary orifices.
Children have the habit of rubbing their eyes or putting their hands in their mouth. Help them grow out of such tendencies to keep them safe from infections. (21)
The need for hygienic measures such as regular handwashing becomes even more urgent during pandemics, such as a flu outbreak. (22) People who are particular about personal cleanliness are less likely to contract the influenza virus. (23)
However, regular handwashing alone will not guard you against the virus if you do not distance yourself from the infected individual. (24) It may serve you well to carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you around the house and, more importantly, when you are venturing out.
d. Keep your surroundings clean
The objects and surfaces that you come in contact with on a day-to-day basis may be swimming with germs and viruses. These include doorknobs, phone covers, phone chargers, refrigerator handles, chopping boards, dishcloths, and kitchen sponges.
Hence, it is important to keep your home and workplace surroundings clean at all times, but more so during the flu season to reduce your risk of getting infected through indirect contact.
Readily available household items such as vinegar, bleach, and soap can be used to disinfect floors, kitchen counters, desks, tables, sinks, and toilet seats. (25) Change your bed linens from time to time. Used bed sheets and pillowcases should be washed in warm water and then put in a dryer on a hot setting. The heat helps to inactivate or kill the influenza virus.
Influenza is a seasonal infection that usually has its onset in late autumn, extending all the way through winter till early spring, which is generally referred to as the flu season.
Influenza vaccination is the first and foremost safeguard to protect yourself from this infection. Everyone above the age of 6 months should get a flu shot every year.
Like any other viral infection, the flu is also self-resolving, which will run its complete course before subsiding. The above-listed tips and remedies can make the recovery period less discomforting.