home remedies to treat colds and flu the ‘natural’ way
1. Do you need to treat the symptoms?
Cold and flu symptoms cause discomfort – but they are part of the body’s natural healing process. Fever is the body’s defence mechanism to try to kill a virus with heat – and blood circulates quicker helping with healing. So, having a fever may mean a cold doesn’t last as long.
Coughing is the body’s way of trying to clear out thick mucus.
Decongestants restrict blood flow in the nose and throat’s blood vessels – but increased blood flow helps with the process of getting better.
2. Nose blowing – the right way
Blowing your nose often with a cold is a good thing to get mucus out – but blowing too hard can push phlegm, and the germs it carries, into the tubes of the ears. This can cause ear problems. Try blowing your nose a nostril at a time by closing the other nostril with a finger and blowing gently into a tissue.
3. Salt water (saline) nose rinsing
A salt water rinse for the nose – saline nasal rinse – is an effective way to easenasal congestion and also helps clear out viruses and bacteria from the nose.
Solutions can be bought ready made from pharmacies – 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 get special devices to do this, such as bulb syringes, or it can be done from a clean, cupped hand.
4. Rest and stay warm
Fighting a cold or flu saps your energy – so take some rest and stay warm while the body’s immune system does its work. This doesn’t mean you are giving in to colds or flu – but just doing what is natural.
A salt water gargle can help ease a sore throat – again mix up the solution with a teaspoon of salt dissolved into a pint of previously boiled water that’s been allowed to cool.
6. Warm drinks
Having warming drinks helps relieve stuffiness and helps soothe the nose and throat. Some cold and flu remedies are made with boiled water – but a nice cup of tea may also make you feel a bit better.
7. Have a steamy shower
Having a shower may perk you up – and better still breathing in the steam helps moisturise the nasal passages.
Menthol products have a strong smell that can cut through blocked noses. A small dab of cream or gel under the nose can help open up blocked nasal passages and may sooth skin under the nose that may have become tender from a lot of nose blowing.
9. Hot or cold therapy for blocked sinuses
Hot or cold can help if the sinuses are blocked from a cold or flu. You can buy special products from pharmacies – or use a warm or cold compress – a moist cold or warm flannel – held against the sides of the nose.
10. Grab an extra pillow in bed
Keeping the head a bit higher can help relieve congested passages in the nose.
11. Avoid aeroplanes
Cabin pressure from a flight can cause discomfort to the ears if you have a cold or flu – so try to avoid flying until you’re better. If you have to fly – try to deal with congestion before take off and landing. Chewing gum and swallowing can help relieve the pressure.
12. Eat well
It can be hard to think of healthy eating when you’ve got a cold or flu – but good nutrition helps the body fight infections. Fruits with vitamin C may be especially beneficial – and try to stick to your 5-a-day portions of fruit and veg rather than turning to comfort foods. Spicy dishes may help cut though congestion too.
13. Fluids and hydration
Drink plenty of fluids to help break up your congestion. Drinking water or juice will help prevent dehydration and keep your throat moist. Include fluids such as water, sports drinks, herbal teas, fruit drinks or ginger ale. Your mother’s chicken soup might help too. Reduce or avoid cola, coffee and other drinks with caffeine in them, as caffeine may contribute to dehydration.
14. Steaming, vaporisers and humidifiers
Inhale steam to ease your congestion and dripping nose. You can buy special steaming devices. Vaporisers, as are humidifiers.
If home remedies aren’t working…
Sometimes colds and flu can lead to complications that may need medical attention – like sinusitis. Although antibiotics don’t help with colds or flu – they can work for bacterial infections that are possible complications of colds and flu.