According to the Centers for Disease Control, 2018 has started with one of the roughest flu seasons in recent years. Here are 10 tips on getting back on your feet if the flu bug strikes.
1. Stay home and rest
If you feel like you have to go into the office because the whole place will fall apart without you – newsflash: you’re wrong. It’s more likely that the place will fall apart because everyone is out sick after you bring in the flu.
On the first day you have symptoms, call your work or school and tell them you won’t be coming in for a few days. You’re sick — and contagious! Take advantage of down time and give your body some much-needed rest.
2. Drink up
Drinking clear liquids (of the non-alcoholic variety) is the first move you can make. It doesn’t all have to be water – fruit juices, sports drinks, and broth-based soups (time for that perennial favorite, chicken noodle) also count.
The liquids keep your respiratory system hydrated and help thin out that mucus and gunk that’s clogging up your chest. That’s good — if it builds up in your lungs it could lead to an infection.
3. Help the aches and fever
When you get the flu virus, your body turns up the head to fight it off. Treat it and the corresponding aches with over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen.
Avoid giving aspirin to anyone younger than 19. It’s linked to a condition known as Reye’s syndrome, a serious illness that can damage the brain and liver.
4. Treat that hacking cough
The most charming part of the flu might be that hacking cough. Try an expectorant, which turns mucus into liquid so you can cough it up and get it out of your system.
Don’t give over-the-counter cough or cold medicine to children under 4.
5. Try a DIY decongestant
You can make a small steam bath, starting with filling the bathroom sink with hot water. Add 1 teaspoon of an over-the-counter menthol rub and breathe in the steam for several minutes. You can also add a few drops of menthol or eucalyptus oil. It doesn’t treat the virus, but it will ease your breathing and congestion.
6. Use a nasal rinse
A salt water rinse for the nose can help nasal congestion and also helps clear out viruses and bacteria.
Solutions can be bought at your local pharmacy or mixed up at home. Allow a pint of boiled water to cool down until it is warm. Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt and rinse into the nose. You can use devices such as neti pots, or use a clean, cupped hand.
7. Run the humidifier
If the air in your house is dry, a humidifier or vaporizer can moisten the air, which can ease congestion and coughs. Use a cool mist, though – a warm mist can promote the growth of bacteria and molds. Also, make sure to keep the device clean to prevent mold.
8. Avoid planes
Cabin pressure from a flight can create uncomfortable ear pressure if you have a cold or flu, so try to avoid flying until you’re better. If you have to fly, chewing gum and swallowing can help relieve the pressure.
9. Eat well
It may feel like the last thing you want to do, but good nutrition helps the body fight off infections.
Fruits with vitamin C may be especially beneficial – and try to stick to the recommended five servings a day of fruit and vegetables rather than turning to comfort foods. Spicy dishes may help cut though congestion too.
10. Ask your doctor for an antiviral medication
You take these drugs when symptoms start. They can lessen and shorten the flu.
Call your doctor if you have signs of the flu or think you were exposed, especially if you have a condition like diabetes, heart disease, or HIV that makes you more likely to have complications. The CDC recommends oseltamivir (Tamiflu), peramivir (Rapivab), or zanamivir (Relenza).