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How to Get Rid of a Flu Quickly

Marion Sereti

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February 22, 2023
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Get Rid of a Flu Quickly | 17 ways you should know

How do you get rid of the flu quickly? Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a viral disease that seasonally affects millions of people. Two flu types most frequently affect people: influenza A and influenza B, with symptoms such as a runny nose, coughing, fever, and body aches((Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Types of Influenza Viruses. CDC. Retrieved 31st Jan 2023 from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/viruses/types.htm)).

The United States flu season tops the chart around February, as seen through the CDC’s weekly surveillance reports on flu activity. The information that is released each week during any flu season is preliminary and subject to change as more data becomes available.

Almost everyone catches the flu during the season, so you need to have everything you can to fight it. This article gives 13 ways on how to get rid of the flu overnight, ease your symptoms and leave you breathing easier.

Blow Your Nose

Simple, but effective! Blow your nose gently but frequently. Inhaling mucus back into your nose might cause sinus discomfort, or create earaches caused by infections when germs are forced back into the ear canal through the eustachian tube – the tube that runs from the ear to the back of the nose and mouth. Getting the mucus out of your system stops this from happening.

However, blowing your nose too hard can be damaging((Myers, S., & Bell, D. (2018). Orbital blowout fracture from nose blowing. BMJ case reports, 2018, bcr2018224633. https://doi.org/10.1136/bcr-2018-224633)), so you need to blow gently.

Also, consider applying warm packs around your nose to reduce any inflammation of the mucus membranes((Koutsourelakis, I., Vagiakis, E., Perraki, E., Karatza, M., Magkou, C., Kopaka, M., Roussos, C., & Zakynthinos, S. (2010). Nasal inflammation in sleep apnoea patients using CPAP and effect of heated humidification. European Respiratory Journal, 37(3), 587–594). European Respiratory Society (ERS). https://doi.org/10.1183/09031936.00036910)).

How to Blow Your Nose

  • Hold a tissue over your nose with both hands. It should be placed over your nostrils to ensure that the tissue will capture the mucus when you blow your nose. 
  • Pinch your nose just below the bone and blow out through it. 
  • Next, gently press only one nostril while exhaling through the other; repeat on the other side.
  • To lessen the spread of germs, wash your hands and toss away used tissues immediately.

Gargle With Salt Water

When you have the flu, gargles should be a daily habit. Even simple water gargles can reduce the symptoms((Satomura, K., Kitamura, T., Kawamura, T., Shimbo, T., Watanabe, M., Kamei, M., Takano, Y., Tamakoshi, A., & Great Cold Investigators-I (2005). Prevention of upper respiratory tract infections by gargling: a randomized trial. American journal of preventive medicine, 29(4), 302–307. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2005.06.013)).

Adding salt to these water gargles improves their effectiveness. Salt and warm water gargling helps clear the mucus buildup and soothe the nose and throat. The antibacterial qualities of the salt fight infection while the water moisturizes the throat. A Scottish study (ELVIS) found that gargling and doing nasal irrigation with salt water reduced the length of people’s symptoms of the common cold by around two days((Ramalingam, S., Graham, C., Dove, J., Morrice, L., & Sheikh, A. (2019). A pilot, open-labeled, randomized controlled trial of hypertonic saline nasal irrigation and gargling for the common cold. Scientific Reports, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-37703-3)).

The common cold is caused by different viruses to influenza((Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Cold Vs Flu. CDC. Retrieved 31st January 2023 from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/coldflu.htm)), but salt has also been shown to contribute to the inactivation of influenza viruses((Utsunomiya, H., Ichinose, M., Tsujimoto, K., Katsuyama, Y., Yamasaki, H., Koyama, A. H., Ejima, D., & Arakawa, T. (2009). Co-operative thermal inactivation of herpes simplex virus and influenza virus by arginine and NaCl. International Journal of Pharmaceutics, 336(1–2), pp. 99–102. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpharm.2008.09.012))1.

A woman holding a cup and gargling saltwater

ELVIS recommends the following method for gargling with home-made hypertonic saline solution (saltwater) three to twelve times a day((Ramalingam (2019). Nasal Irrigation and Gargling. Edinburgh & Lothians Viral Intervention Study. Retrieved 31st January 2023 from http://www.elvisstudy.com/nasal-irrigation-and-gargling.html)).

How to Gargle With Saltwater

  • Boil water
  • Mix in enough salt so that it tastes salty, but not uncomfortably so
  • Allow to cool
  • Take a small mouthful of the solution and tip your head back with your mouth open (the saltwater should sit at the top of your throat)
  • Gently exhale through the mouth to cause bubbles in the solution
  • Spit it out once your breath is done
  • Repeat as often as necessary to soothe your sore throat

Rest and Sleep

When you have the flu, resting should come first; take it as a chance to recharge your body's immune system. Sleep helps you because it is a key part of your immune system’s cycle((Lange, T., Dimitrov, S., & Born, J. (2010). Effects of sleep and circadian rhythm on the human immune system. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1193(1), 48–59). Wiley. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.05300.x)). The duration and outcome of an infection is affected by how much sleep you get and how chronically sleep deprived you are((Besedovsky, L., Lange, T., & Haack, M. (2019). The Sleep-Immune Crosstalk in Health and Disease. Physiological Reviews, 99(3), 1325–1380. https://doi.org/10.1152/physrev.00010.2018)).

How to Ensure You Get Plenty of Rest

  • Make sure you get eight to ten hours of sleep each night, whether you are sick or healthy
  • Take this as an excellent opportunity to rest from demanding workouts for a few days
  • Elevate your head while sleeping to make breathing easier((Souza, F. J. F. de B., Genta, P. R., de Souza Filho, A. J., Wellman, A., & Lorenzi-Filho, G. (2017). The influence of head-of-bed elevation in patients with obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep and Breathing, 21(4), 815–820. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11325-017-1524-3)), which promotes relaxing sleep
  • Stay at home, as if you attend work or school when you are ill, you will expose others around you to germs, and you might contract more illnesses from individuals around you and that your illness might last longer

Use Steam to Relieve Congestion

Steam inhalation has long been used for treating colds because it has always been believed that steam might inhibit viral replication and improve congestion. Evidence suggests that breathing in some steam can ease your flu symptoms((Singh, M., Singhi, S., & Walia, B. N. (1990). Evaluation of steam therapy in acute lower respiratory tract infections: a pilot study. Indian pediatrics, 27(9), 945–951. https://europepmc.org/article/med/2286438)), reduce congestion((Basch, F. P., Holinger, P., & Poncher, H. G. (1941). Physical and Chemical Properties of Sputum: II. Influence of Drugs, Steam, Carbon Dioxide and Oxygen. American Journal of Diseases of Children, 62(6), pp. 1149-1171.)), and help you sleep((Ichiba, T., Kakiuchi, K., Suzuki, M., & Uchiyama, M. (2019). Warm Steam Inhalation before Bedtime Improved Sleep Quality in Adult Men. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1155/2019/2453483)), making you feel better.

Steam coming out of a pot

Methods to Use Steam to Get Rid of the Flu Quickly

  • Close your eyes and hunch over the bowl of warm water that is producing steam with a towel over your head and bowl 
  • Take a bath or shower that’s hot enough to steam the room up
  • Spend some time in a steam room or wet sauna
  • Use portable steam inhalers

Eat a Healthy Diet 

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that multiple nutrients from a healthy diet assist in building a strong immune system, and when it comes to healthy eating, it's important to prioritize including a variety of fruits and veggies, lean protein, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products((U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available from https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/resources/2020-2025-dietary-guidelines-online-materials)). Saturated fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars should all be kept to a minimum when eating healthy.

To ensure that your body has enough nourishment, the Mayo Clinic advises against skipping meals. You should aim for five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily to receive enough vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support the immune system((Wempen, K. (2022) Immune-boosting nutrient fight flu - Mayo Clinic Health System. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 7th February 2023 from https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/fight-off-the-flu-with-nutrients)).

Additionally, here are some specific foods you may not have considered that can help when you have the flu and support your immune system more generally.

Black Elderberry Syrup

Elderberries (the fruits of the elder tree) are a traditional folk remedy for the flu. There is also rising scientific evidence for their effectiveness. A few studies have shown elderberry extract or juice to lessen flu symptoms((Torabian, G., Valtchev, P., Adil, Q., & Dehghani, F. (2019). Anti-influenza activity of elderberry (Sambucus nigra). Journal of Functional Foods, 54, 353–360. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2019.01.031)). They have also been shown in one randomized controlled trial to shorten the length and severity of colds more effectively than a placebo; it is hypothesized this is due to their level of antioxidants((Tiralongo, E., Wee, S. S., & Lea, R. A. (2016). Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Nutrients, 8(4), 182. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8040182)). However, the evidence is still limited.

If you decide to make your own elderberry juice instead of buying a supplement, keep in mind that the berries must be cooked thoroughly to prevent sickness or cyanide toxicity. The rest of the plant is dangerous and should never be consumed in any way; only the berries should ever be used.

Garlic

Since ancient times, people have used garlic extensively as a spice, functional food, and traditional medicine to treat various diseases, including infections. Garlic’s high antioxidant content, quercetin, and other therapeutic oils offer antiviral properties to assist in boosting the immune system and lower the severity of flu symptoms((Rouf, R., Uddin, S. J., Sarker, D. K., Islam, M. T., Ali, E. S., Shilpi, J. A., Nahar, L., Tiralongo, E., & Sarker, S. D. (2020). Antiviral potential of garlic (Allium sativum) and its organosulfur compounds: A systematic update of pre-clinical and clinical data. Trends in food science & technology, 104, 219–234. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tifs.2020.08.006)).

Honey

Honey is a powerhouse of an immunity boost, full of antibacterial qualities that help get rid of the flu. Studies suggest that it exhibits significant antiviral inhibitory effect, suggesting potential medicinal relevance((Watanabe, K., Rahmasari, R., Matsunaga, A., Haruyama, T., & Kobayashi, N. (2014). Anti-influenza viral effects of honey in vitro: potent high activity of manuka honey. Archives of medical research, 45(5), 359–365. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.arcmed.2014.05.006)). Honey is also as effective, if not more so, than cough syrups for reducing coughing, particularly in children((Cohen, H. A., Rozen, J., Kristal, H., Laks, Y., Berkovitch, M., Uziel, Y., Kozer, E., Pomeranz, A., & Efrat, H. (2012). Effect of Honey on Nocturnal Cough and Sleep Quality: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study. Pediatrics, 130(3), 465–471. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2011-3075)).

This bee product can be consumed with salt or black pepper. Alternatively, putting a tablespoon of honey in a cup of warm water or milk works well2.

Beetroot Juice

Beetroot juice is high in two immune-supporting chemicals: antioxidants((Bendich, A. (1993). Physiological Role of Antioxidants in the Immune System. Journal of Dairy Science, 76(9), 2789–2794. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.s0022-0302(93)77617-1))((Wootton-Beard, P. C., & Ryan, L. (2011). A beetroot juice shot is a significant and convenient source of bioaccessible antioxidants. Journal of Functional Foods, 3(4), 329–334. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2011.05.007)) and nitric oxide (NO)((Kroll, J. L., Werchan, C. A., Rosenfield, D., & Ritz, T. (2018). Acute ingestion of beetroot juice increases exhaled nitric oxide in healthy individuals. H. Fehrenbach (Ed.), PLOS ONE, 13(1), e0191030. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0191030))((Zamani, H., de Joode, M. E. J. R., Hossein, I. J., Henckens, N. F. T., Guggeis, M. A., Berends, J. E., de Kok, T. M. C. M., & van Breda, S. G. J. (2020). The benefits and risks of beetroot juice consumption: a systematic review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 61(5), 788–804). https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2020.1746629)).

Nitric oxide in particular may have antiviral properties((Åkerström, S., Gunalan, V., Keng, C. T., Tan, Y.-J., & Mirazimi, A. (2009). Dual effect of nitric oxide on SARS-CoV replication: Viral RNA production and palmitoylation of the S protein are affected. Virology, 395(1), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.virol.2009.09.007))((Åkerström, S., Mousavi-Jazi, M., Klingström, J., Leijon, M., Lundkvist, A., & Mirazimi, A. (2005). Nitric Oxide Inhibits the Replication Cycle of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus. Journal of Virology, 79(3), 1966–1969). American Society for Microbiology. https://doi.org/10.1128/jvi.79.3.1966-1969.2005)).

Additionally, beetroot juice is particularly useful during stressful times. It can counteract the blood-pressure-raising effect of stress, both for healthy people((Zamani, H., de Joode, M. E. J. R., Hossein, I. J., Henckens, N. F. T., Guggeis, M. A., Berends, J. E., de Kok, T. M. C. M., & van Breda, S. G. J. (2020). The benefits and risks of beetroot juice consumption: a systematic review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 61(5), 788–804). https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2020.1746629)) and people wit respiratory difficulties((Friis, A. L., Steenholt, C. B., Løkke, A., & Hansen, M. (2017). Dietary beetroot juice – effects on physical performance in COPD patients: a randomized controlled crossover trial. International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, 12, 1765–1773. https://doi.org/10.2147/copd.s135752)).

It also helps with the suppression of the immune system that comes from stress – during periods of psychological stress, beetroot juice guards against cold symptoms and there may be specific benefits for those with asthma, which could result in fewer asthma flare-ups brought on by respiratory infections((Ritz, T., Werchan, C. A., Kroll, J. L., & Rosenfield, D. (2019). Beetroot juice supplementation for the prevention of cold symptoms associated with stress: A proof-of-concept study. Physiology & behavior, 202, 45–51. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2019.01.015)).

Beetroot itself can be consumed and beetroot juice is available as a drink.

Drink Plenty of Fluids

Drinking plenty of fluids is a common folk remedy for the flu. Hot drinks, such as tea or soup, help relieve congestion by increasing the runniness of your nose mucus((Saketkhoo, K., Januszkiewicz, A., & Sackner, M. A. (1978). Effects of Drinking Hot Water, Cold Water, and Chicken Soup on Nasal Mucus Velocity and Nasal Airflow Resistance. Chest, 74(4), 408–410). https://doi.org/10.1016/s0012-3692(15)37387-6)), and can relieve coughs if paired with honey (as discussed above). Additionally, if you have developed a fever due to the flu, then you may require more fluid than normal due to sweating a lot, so drinking more replenishes that.

However, there is little empirical evidence that drinking more than usual helps relieve the flu or cold any faster((DeGeorge, K. C.; Ring, D. J.; Dalrymple, S. N. (2019). Treatment of the Common Cold. American Family Physician, 100(5), 281–289. Retrieved 9th February 2023 from AAFP)). Additionally, increasing your fluid intake too much can be harmful((Sahay, M., & Sahay, R. (2014). Hyponatremia: A practical approach. Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, 18(6), 760. Medknow. https://doi.org/10.4103/2230-8210.141320)) and even deadly in some cases((Garigan, T. P., & Ristedt, D. E. (1999). Death from Hyponatremia as a Result of Acute Water Intoxication in an Army Basic Trainee. Military Medicine, 164(3), 234–238. https://doi.org/10.1093/milmed/164.3.234)).

Some cases of children with the flu dying have been attributed to overintake of fluids((Guppy, M. P., Mickan, S. M., & Del Mar, C. B. (2004). "Drink plenty of fluids": a systematic review of evidence for this recommendation in acute respiratory infections. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 328(7438), 499–500. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.38028.627593.BE)).

The best state for the body is to be in balance. Therefore, when you have the flu, do use hot drinks and soups to relieve nasal congestion but also do not force yourself to drink more than you need. 

Practice Good Hygiene

To stay healthy, one must practice good hygiene. It protects you from several types of germs that could harm you. While flu-stricken, pay even more attention to your hygiene practices to stop yourself from catching any more illnesses while you’re already under the weather, and to stop your flu spreading – you probably don't want anyone else to feel as bad as you do. 

Staying at home is part of this((Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Healthy Habits to Help Protect Against Flu. CDC. Retrieved 9th February 2023 from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/actions-prevent-flu.htm)). You will likely not feel well enough to go out anway. However, because you are staying at home, there is a greater chance that someone in your household will become ill. 

A person washing hands

So, what can you do to keep them safe?

CDC Recommendations((Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Healthy Habits to Help Protect Against Flu. CDC. Retrieved 9th February 2023 from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/actions-prevent-flu.htm)):

  • Maintain your distance – Consider designating one room the ‘sick room’ that you stay in and others do not go in until you are better
  • Never share food or beverages – The flu spreads through saliva, which can be transferred when sharing food or drinks
  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water, or disinfect with an alcohol-based sanitizer – Scrubs your hands with the soap for at least 20 seconds before rinsing and drying
  • When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth; if you are in a room talking with people, wear a mask – the flu is spread through droplets of moisture that come out of the mouth, particularly during coughing, sneezing, and talking
  • Disinfect regularly touched areas and objects, such as counters, doorknobs, and remote controls, to eliminate the flu virus throughout your home – The flu virus can live on surfaces and be spread to other people who touch them
  • If you spit phlegm, clean the area as soon as possible – Your phlegm will contain the flu virus, potentially as well as other germs, so you do not want to leave it on a surface for them to spread 
  • Avoid meeting people and shaking hands with them – Clean hands can still harbour germs, so even if your hands seem clean, they may still have the flu on them

Keep Warm

When you have a fever, wrapping up warm is probably the last thing on your mind. However, according to researchers, staying warm, specifically keeping your body temperature within the fever range (100–106°F; 38–41°C), actually strengthens your immune system((Evans, S. S., Repasky, E. A., & Fisher, D. T. (2015). Fever and the thermal regulation of immunity: the immune system feels the heat. Nature reviews. Immunology, 15(6), 335–349. https://doi.org/10.1038/nri3843)). Additionally, keeping your environment warmer will help limit the transmissibility of the flu virus((Lowen, A. C., Mubareka, S., Steel, J., & Palese, P. (2007). Influenza Virus Transmission Is Dependent on Relative Humidity and Temperature. PLoS Pathogens, 3(10), e151. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.0030151)).

How to Keep Warm if You Have the Flu

  • Make warm foods and beverages – You can keep yourself warm by regularly consuming hot beverages and meals, like porridge, soups, and stews, which can also ease the difficulty in breathing and swallowing
  • Physical activity – Despite the fatigue that the flu causes, try to be as active as possible to improve your circulation as simple physical activity can help you stay warm; avoid sitting stationary for extended periods of time and move around at least once each hour; Finally, put your feet up when you do sit down because the ground is the coldest place to be
  • Wear multiple layers, rest under a blanket, and cover your hands, feet, and head – You want to be as insulated as possible to lose the least amount of heat

Use a Humidifier

Cold air has a lower capacity to store moisture; if you already have the flu, cold, dry air might make your sore throat worse. Additionally, the flu virus spreads more easily in cold, dry air((Lowen, A. C., Mubareka, S., Steel, J., & Palese, P. (2007). Influenza Virus Transmission Is Dependent on Relative Humidity and Temperature. PLoS Pathogens, 3(10), e151. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.0030151)).

This is where a humidifier might be useful. A humidifier gently releases steam into the environment from an internal source. If you don't have one, leave a shallow bowl of water out, especially close to a heat source. The evaporating water will gradually increase the room's humidity. Steam rooms are commonly considered to relieve congestion((Basch, F. P., Holinger, P., & Poncher, H. G. (1941). Physical and Chemical Properties of Sputum: II. Influence of Drugs, Steam, Carbon Dioxide and Oxygen. American Journal of Diseases of Children, 62(6), pp. 1149-1171.)), so you can try making your own!

If you can’t steam an entire room, try more targeted steam therapy. Steam thins the mucus in your sinuses, making it easier to breathe((Basch, F. P., Holinger, P., & Poncher, H. G. (1941). Physical and Chemical Properties of Sputum: II. Influence of Drugs, Steam, Carbon Dioxide and Oxygen. American Journal of Diseases of Children, 62(6), pp. 1149-1171.)) and helping you sleep((Ichiba, T., Kakiuchi, K., Suzuki, M., & Uchiyama, M. (2019). Warm Steam Inhalation before Bedtime Improved Sleep Quality in Adult Men. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1155/2019/2453483)). Fill a large bowl with freshly boiled water, lean over it, and place a towel or blanket over both you and the bowl. Breathe in the steam until the water cools.

You can read a more in-depth review of steam therapy here.

A working humidifier

Properly Use Essential Oils 

Essential oils can treat or help you recover from your flu by reducing its symptoms((Wani, A. R., Yadav, K., Khursheed, A., & Rather, M. A. (2021). An updated and comprehensive review of the antiviral potential of essential oils and their chemical constituents with special focus on their mechanism of action against various influenza and coronaviruses. Microbial pathogenesis, 152, 104620. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.micpath.2020.104620)). The best approach to utilize essential oils for the flu is by inhalation, such as in a humidifier or through steam therapy. Inhaling these oils can decrease the intensity of headaches((Sasannejad, P., Saeedi, M., Shoeibi, A., Gorji, A., Abbasi, M., & Foroughipour, M. (2012). Lavender Essential Oil in the Treatment of Migraine Headache: A Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. European Neurology, 67(5), 288–291. https://doi.org/10.1159/000335249)) and clear clogged airways. Aromatherapy can also make your home smell better, which can elevate your mood, promote restful sleep, and reduce stress.

Essential oils can be inhaled directly from the container or put a few drops to a cotton ball or handkerchief. They can also be placed in a humidifier or in a bowl of hot water that you lean over. Use this procedure to clear your nasal passages and improve your breathing. Below are some essential oils to relieve flu signs and symptoms:

  • Lemon oil((Ben Hsouna, A., Ben Halima, N., Smaoui, S., & Hamdi, N. (2017). Citrus lemon essential oil: chemical composition, antioxidant and antimicrobial activities with its preservative effect against Listeria monocytogenes inoculated in minced beef meat. Lipids in health and disease, 16(1), 146. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12944-017-0487-5)) 
  • Thyme oil((Kowalczyk, A., Przychodna, M., Sopata, S., Bodalska, A., & Fecka, I. (2020). Thymol and Thyme Essential Oil-New Insights into Selected Therapeutic Applications. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 25(18), 4125. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules25184125)) 
  • Eucalyptus oil((Sadlon, A. E., & Lamson, D. W. (2010). Immune-modifying and antimicrobial effects of Eucalyptus oil and simple inhalation devices. Alternative Medicine Review : a Journal of Clinical Therapeutic, 15(1), 33–47. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20359267/)) 
  • Tea tree oil((Carson, C. F., Hammer, K. A., & Riley, T. V. (2006). Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) oil: a review of antimicrobial and other medicinal properties. Clinical Microbiology Reviews, 19(1), 50–62. https://doi.org/10.1128/CMR.19.1.50-62.2006)) 
  • Chamomile oil((Srivastava, J. K., Shankar, E., & Gupta, S. (2010). Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future. Molecular medicine reports, 3(6), 895–901. https://doi.org/10.3892/mmr.2010.377)) 
  • Clove oil((Haro-González, J. N., Castillo-Herrera, G. A., Martínez-Velázquez, M., & Espinosa-Andrews, H. (2021). Clove Essential Oil (Syzygium aromaticum L. Myrtaceae): Extraction, Chemical Composition, Food Applications, and Essential Bioactivity for Human Health. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 26(21), 6387. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26216387)) 
  • Cinnamon oil((Kawatra, P., & Rajagopalan, R. (2015). Cinnamon: Mystic powers of a minute ingredient. Pharmacognosy research, 7(Suppl 1), S1–S6. https://doi.org/10.4103/0974-8490.157990))
  • Rosemary oil((Ghasemzadeh Rahbardar, M., & Hosseinzadeh, H. (2020). Therapeutic effects of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) and its active constituents on nervous system disorders. Iranian journal of basic medical sciences, 23(9), 1100–1112. https://doi.org/10.22038/ijbms.2020.45269.10541)) 
  • Lavender oil((Cavanagh, H. M., & Wilkinson, J. M. (2002). Biological activities of lavender essential oil. Phytotherapy research : PTR, 16(4), 301–308. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.1103)) 

Read on for more refreshing essential oils for a cough when you have a flu here.

Take Some Supplements

Supplements are potent immunity boosters that can, in the right balance, help fend off opportunistic bacteria, viruses and infections. For this reason, you should consider supplements that boost your immune system.

Vitamins and Minerals

If you are deficient in a vitamin or mineral, your body will benefit from taking a supplement that restores their level up to normal.

However, there is little proof that taking more of these supplements than the recommended daily amount is advantageous. Because your body needs to work extra hard to metabolize what you consume, it can sometimes be hazardous and these supplements can have unforeseen effects.

It is challenging to provide definite recommendations on the dose, formulation, and duration that should be utilized due to this and the variations in study populations, dosages, formulations, and treatment length.

Still, certain vitamins and minerals are extremely helpful in supporting your immune system and fending off the flu:

Vitamin D

Also known as the "sunshine vitamin", vitamin D keeps teeth, muscles, and bone healthy. It is available as a food supplement and in is present in many foods, including salmon, fortified milk or juice, egg yolks, and mushrooms. Studies suggest that consuming more vitamin D may reduce your risk of getting the flu and the likelihood of a serious case if you do((Zhu, Z., Zhu, X., Gu, L., Zhan, Y., Chen, L., & Li, X. (2022). Association Between Vitamin D and Influenza: Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. Frontiers in nutrition, 8, 799709. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2021.799709)).

Vitamin C

Considered by many to be a strong supporter of the immune system, vitamin C supports the physical barriers that shield your body from pathogens (for instance, the epithelial cells of your skin) and aids in the formation and operation of immune cells. Very high daily doses and consistency in intake of vitamin C supplements can shorten the length of colds and even help prevent them((Gorton, H. C., & Jarvis, K. (1999). The effectiveness of vitamin C in preventing and relieving the symptoms of virus-induced respiratory infections. Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics, 22(8), 530–533. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0161-4754(99)70005-9)).

Zinc

This dietary mineral helps recover from and prevent colds, especially when taken as soon as cold symptoms appear and regularly taken as a supplement((Singh, M., & Das, R. R. (2011). Zinc for the common cold. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, (2), CD001364. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD001364.pub3))((Hemilä, et al.(2016). Zinc acetate lozenges for treating the common cold: an individual patient data meta-analysis. British journal of clinical pharmacology, 82(5), 1393–1398. https://doi.org/10.1111/bcp.13057)); however, certain delivery methods can have side effects, such as loss of smell when using nasal sprays((Alexander, T. H., & Davidson, T. M. (2006). Intranasal zinc and anosmia: the zinc-induced anosmia syndrome. The Laryngoscope, 116(2), 217–220. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.mlg.0000191549.17796.13)) or a bad taste and mouth irritation when using lozenges((Eby, G. A., Davis, D. R., & Halcomb, W. W. (1984). Reduction in duration of common colds by zinc gluconate lozenges in a double-blind study. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 25(1), 20–24. https://doi.org/10.1128/aac.25.1.20)).

Probiotics

Probiotics are live cultures of beneficial microorganisms, often served as yoghurts. They may regulate the immunological activity, which can lead to better health. Probiotic strains have been shown to protect against respiratory infections in some trials. Two studies from 2012((Sæterdal, I., Underland, V., & Nilsen, E. S. (2012). The effect of probiotics for preventing acute upper respiratory tract infections. Global advances in health and medicine, 1(2), 124–125. https://doi.org/10.7453/gahmj.2012.1.2.014)) and 2015((Santesso N. (2015). A Summary of a Cochrane Review: Probiotics to Prevent Acute Upper Respiratory Tract Infections. Global advances in health and medicine, 4(6), 18–19. https://doi.org/10.7453/gahmj.2015.107)) found that taking probiotics preventatively may lower the length of upper respiratory tract infections, the number of sick days, and the amount of antibiotics prescribed for such infections.

Another analysis from 2014((Yan, F., & Polk, D. B. (2011). Probiotics and immune health. Current opinion in gastroenterology, 27(6), 496–501. https://doi.org/10.1097/MOG.0b013e32834baa4d)) showed that probiotics help guard against viral infections, lower the chance of catching a common cold, and reduce the number of symptomatic days from common colds in healthy individuals. 

The evidence for probiotics is not the strongest, but overall they work better than placebos in preventing or relieving colds((Zhao, Y., Dong, B. R., & Hao, Q. (2022). Probiotics for preventing acute upper respiratory tract infections. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, 8(8), CD006895. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD006895.pub4)).(

Echinacea

Echinacea is a plant recommended by herbalists to help boost the immune system and fight infections. Daily echinacea use may lessen the likelihood and length of upper respiratory infections like a cold((Shah, S. A., Sander, S., White, C. M., Rinaldi, M., & Coleman, C. I. (2007). Evaluation of echinacea for the prevention and treatment of the common cold: a meta-analysis. The Lancet. Infectious diseases, 7(7), 473–480. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(07)70160-3)), but research findings have been so weak as to be clinically or statistically insignificant((David, S., & Cunningham, R. (2019). Echinacea for the prevention and treatment of upper respiratory tract infections: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 44, pp. 18–26). Elsevier BV. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2019.03.011)).

Echinacae can interact with certain medications, especially immunosuppressive ones((Awortwe, C., Bouic, P. J., Masimirembwa, C. M., & Rosenkranz, B. (2014). Inhibition of major drug metabolizing CYPs by common herbal medicines used by HIV/AIDS patients in Africa-- implications for herb-drug interactions. Drug metabolism letters, 7(2), 83–95. https://doi.org/10.2174/1872312808666140129123210)). Therefore, before using this supplement, consult with your doctor if you take any medications.

Use Antiviral Drugs

The best way how to get rid of the flu quickly is to take antiviral drugs as soon as the flu symptoms appear. According to studies, taking antiviral  medications for the flu within the first two days after becoming ill has the most restorative effect((Świerczyńska, M., Mirowska-Guzel, D. M., & Pindelska, E. (2022). Antiviral Drugs in Influenza. International journal of environmental research and public health, 19(5), 3018. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19053018)). Even if the sick person is at a higher risk of developing major flu complications or is hospitalized with a more serious disease, starting them later can still be useful.

The CDC has identified four FDA-approved antiviral medications to treat flu((Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). What You Should Know About Flu Antiviral Drugs. CDC. Retrieved 10th February 2023 from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/treatment/whatyoushould.htm)):

  • Oseltamivir phosphate (available as a generic version or under the trade name Tamiflu®),
  • Zanamivir (trade name Relenza®)
  • Peramivir (trade name Rapivab®)
  • Baloxavir marboxil (trade name Xofluza®).

Flu antiviral medications are a class of prescription drugs (pills, liquid, powder for inhalation, or intravenous solution) that work to combat flu viruses in your body. Antiviral medication is not available over the counter. They are only available with a prescription from a medical professional.

Pills on a surface

Over The Counter Medications

Consider taking the following OTC medications to lessen the discomfort associated with particularly cold and flu symptoms:

  • Analgesics – Such as ibuprofen (Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®), these lower pain and fever, 
  • Expectorants – For example, guaifenesin (Robitussin®, Mucofen®, Humibid LA®, Mucinex®, Humibid E®),  these ease coughing or mucus production or to facilitate nasal blowing, 
  • Antihistamines – Such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl®), these can dry up a runny nose.
  • Decongestants – Such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed®), these can help a stuffy, congested nose 
  • Antitussives – Such as dextromethorphan (Buckleys Mixture®), these can be used to suppress coughing
  • Saltwater nasal sprays – Spraying your nose with salt-containing nasal sprays relieves nasal congestion, through similar effects to gargling with saltwater
  • Nasal steroids – Such as fluticasone (Flonase®), these can help with sinus pressure or a runny nose 
  • Throat lozenges – Medicated or unmedicated, these can help with sore throat relief.

Final Words

Supplements, such as vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc, may give you an advantage over the common cold and flu. Still, they should only be used in addition to your foremost line of defence, which consists of good hygiene, adequate hydration, a healthy diet, restful sleep, pain relievers, and exercise. If symptoms persist, call or visit your doctor as soon as possible.
The best way to get rid of the flu quickly is to not get the flu at all. The flu vaccine is an effective preventative measure that can stop you from catching that year’s influenza strains and can reduce the severity of the illness if you still catch it3. It is administered through both an injection and a nasal spray. The flu shot activates the immune system by exposing it to viruses. The body's defense mechanism against the flu in response is the development of antibodies. The flu vaccine cannot cause you to develop the flu, is very safe, and is the best line of defence against catching the flu((Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Flu Vaccine Safety Information. CDC. Retrieved 10th February 2023 from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/general.htm)).

  1. De Benedictis, P., Beato, M. S., & Capua, I. (2007). Inactivation of Avian Influenza Viruses by Chemical Agents and Physical Conditions: A Review. Zoonoses and Public Health, 54(2), pp. 51–68. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1863-2378.2007.01029.x []
  2. Miceli Sopo, S., Greco, M., Monaco, S., Varrasi, G., Di Lorenzo, G., & Simeone, G. (2015). Effect of multiple honey doses on non-specific acute cough in children. An open randomised study and literature review. Allergologia et Immunopathologia, 43(5), 449–455. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aller.2014.06.002 []
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). What are the benefits of flu vaccination? CDC. Retrieved 10th February 2023 from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccine-benefits.htm []

Your Cough Matters

4.9
Based on our results in Google Play & App Store
  • Excellent, insightful
    By dust mite dan - Apr 7, 2023 - App Store
    This app is easy to use, aesthetically pleasing and has provided me with useful information about my cough and disease patterns that have improved my overall health!

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  • Great app!
    by Imtfx0019 — Dec 6, 2022 - App Store
    Impressed with how well it detected my coughs, even very slight ones.
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  • App is Great!
    by HBert Quach — Jan 22, 2023, - Google Play
    App is great at tracking cough when little ones are sick. I treat it as a early warning indicator before the cold gets back. Customer service is awesome, they actually respond to all my questions.
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  • Great Experience
    by Christi Hammock — Mar 7, 2023, - Google Play

    I had an issue logging into the new app but I contacted the support team and they were awesome in helping me figure out the issue. It turned out to be a technical issue which they resolved very quickly and I was kept in the loop on the status from start to finish. This app is really helpful when talking to my doctor too..
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  • Impressive app
    By KayakTina - Apr 7, 2023 - App Store
    "The app accurately is recording my coughs with excellent ways to review the results. I can add notes to help me identify patterns or have accurate information for my physicians. I’ve hoped for an app like this for years to help me accurately track the amount of coughing I’m doing"
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  • Accurate count of coughs
    by Beardonna — Mar 8, 2023 - App Store

    Just installed the app. Very accurate measuring coughs so far! Cannot wait to see how much coughing I do while sleeping. I'll have a better picture to discuss with my physician at my next visit.

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