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The aches, pains, chills and fever of the flu are downright uncomfortable. Your doctor will most likely recommend you get plenty of rest and fluids to fight the flu—antiviral medications can be prescribed if the flu is caught within 48 hours, or if you’re at high risk for complications or you have a severe case.
To ease symptoms of the flu, many people turn to home remedies—those tips and tricks we’ve heard from our loved ones when we’re sick. But do they work? Surprisingly, many of them do.
“Home remedies have been around for such a long time because many of them actually do work,” said Sarah Davis, M.D., primary care physician at Inspira Medical Group Primary Care Mantua. “These foods or treatments can help soothe symptoms like coughs, nausea and sore throat.”
Here’s what to try, and why they are effective.
An upset stomach, nausea and vomiting sometimes accompany a fever and chills. Calm your stomach with ginger, an anti-inflammatory plant proven to ease unwanted symptoms.
Try sipping on ginger ale or brewing a pot of ginger tea. Another option is to pick up some ginger chews, which can be found in most grocery stores or pharmacies.
Chicken soup has been touted as a cure-all for ailments for centuries. And, in fact, it does work. “Hot soup or broth of any kind, can help to increase blood flow and allow mucus to flush out of your system,” said Dr. Davis. “It also hydrates you, can soothe a sore throat and will make you feel warmer if you’re having chills.”
Menthol rub or salve
Menthol, which comes from the peppermint plant, is often combined with eucalyptus and camphor, a powder from a type of laurel tree, to make menthol rub or salve. Use a menthol salve on your chest to open up airways and calm coughing. You can also dab a little under your nose to soothe raw skin, as menthol, eucalyptus and camphor also have a pain-relieving effect. Though menthol is also one of the main ingredients in cough drops, it’s not safe to use menthol rub inside your mouth.
Warm saltwater gargles
The discomfort of a sore throat can keep you from drinking plenty of fluids, which is the best way to fight the flu. But a warm saltwater gargle can help—the warm liquid is soothing, and salt water can help to kill bacteria in your throat.
Honey (for those over 1 year old)
Honey can be very helpful in stopping a cough or soothing a sore throat. And, this natural remedy has antibacterial properties. Add honey to hot tea to combine multiple home remedies.
In addition to these home remedies, drink plenty of water, tea or sports drinks, which contain electrolytes that help you get and stay hydrated. “With rest, plenty of liquids and some of these home remedies, you should expect to start feeling better in about a week,” said Dr. Davis.