1. Stay home and get plenty of rest.
Mind your flu manners. 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 very contagious! Take advantage of down time and give your body some much-needed rest. Curl up on the couch and spend some time reading, watching DVDs, or just cat-napping while your body battles the virus.
2. Drink plenty of fluids.
Make sure you get more liquids. It doesn’t all have to be water — fruit juices, sports drinks, and broth-based soups (like chicken noodle soup) also count. They keep your respiratory system hydrated and turn that nasty, thick mucus into a thin liquid you can cough up and spit out. That’s good — if it builds up in your lungs it could lead to an infection.
3. Treat aches and fever.
4. Take care of your cough.
5. Breathe in steam.
Fill the bathroom sink with hot water. Add 1 teaspoon of an over-the-counter menthol rub and breathe in the steam for several minutes until you feel better. You can also add a few drops of menthol or eucalyptus oil. They can open your airways, ease congestion, and make it easier to breathe. There’s no proof, though, that any of these really help with the symptoms.
6. Sit in a steamy bathroom.
If you’re still stuffed up, sit in the bathroom with the door closed. Let the shower run hot until the room fills with moist steam. Sit away from the water to avoid burns.
7. Run the humidifier.
If the air in your house is dry, a mist humidifier or vaporizer can moisten it to ease congestion and coughs. Don’t use a warm mist because it can promote the growth of bacteria and molds. Also make sure to keep the device clean to prevent mold development.
8. Try a lozenge.
Sucking on soothing lozenges will moisten and coat a scratchy throat. It may quiet your cough, too.
9. Get salty.
Saline nose drops or sprays are available over-the-counter at any drug or grocery store. They work, they’re safe — even for kids — and they won’t make your sore throat worse. Put several drops into one nostril, and gently blow the mucus and saline out. Repeat the process on the other side until both are unblocked.
10. Ask for an antiviral.
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). The drugs work best when you get them within 48 hours of your first symptoms. They can cut your case of flu by a day if you get them early on. You’ll take them for 5 days. They can also help prevent the flu in someone who’s just been exposed.
Call the doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Earache or drainage from your ear
- Pain in your face or forehead along with thick yellow or green mucus for more than a week
- A temperature 100.4 F or higher in an infant less than 3 months of age
- Temperature higher than 102 F in older children or adults
- Hoarseness, sore throat, or a cough that won’t go away
- Shortness of breath
- Symptoms that get worse or won’t go away