How quickly we forget the true misery that comes with having a cold or flu in the Canadian winter! Aches, chills, sore throat, nausea, congestion, cough, and fever: always a reminder never to take day-to-day health for granted.
It is important to note that the cold and flu are both viruses, and so neither can be cured with over-the-counter medications. However, selecting the right methods of managing symptoms can help you return to health sooner, get better quality sleep, decrease the severity of symptoms, and feel more comfortable while you are sick.
Here are 8 tips to help you fight common symptoms of the cold and flu.
Staying hydrated is so important when you are sick. At HealthOne, we love natural beverages such as plain water, herbal tea with honey, hot lemon water, and bone broths. Stay away from caffeinated beverages such as black tea and coffee, as these are actually dehydrating. Fruit juices and sports drinks are packed with sugar, so replacing electrolytes with soups and broths is a much healthier option.
As impossible as it seems, your body needs some time to rest and repair itself. Trust that you are helping your body in its natural ability to fight off viruses. Sleep is very important in good immune system function. You are also helping to prevent the spread of the virus by not rushing back to work right away.
03. The Power of Steam
Breathing moist air can help to ease nasal congestion as well as sore throat pain. A hot shower can feel amazing to clear out congestion, and a humidifier can also be a great asset. One of our favourite steamy options is to bring a pot of water to a boil, remove it from heat, and add a couple drops of peppermint essential oil. Lean over the pot, close your eyes, and breath deeply.
04. Managing Fever
Fever is a natural way our body attempts to fight off viruses and bacteria. With the exception of very young and old members of the population, it may be helpful to allow your body to run a slight fever during a cold or flu. However, if it becomes too uncomfortable, is not subsiding, or is interfering with sleep, acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) are your best bet.
05. Nasal Sprays
Nasal irrigation is becoming a more popular way to manage nasal and sinus irritation. There are three main types of nasal sprays that can be used in colds: decongestant, saline, and steroid.
- Decongestant sprays narrow blood vessels in the lining of the nose to shrink swollen tissues and relieve stuffiness. They should not be used for more than 3 days or they can actually have the opposite effect.
- Saline sprays help to loosen mucus when it feels thick and difficult to expel.
- Steroid sprays are generally used in allergies but are sometimes recommended for stuffiness that is sinus related.
It’s important to pick the right spray for your specific symptoms, asking a pharmacist is a great option.
There are two main types of cough medication that can be found over-the-counter.
- Cough suppressants reduce the cough reflex when coughing is caused by irritation.
- Cough expectorants are used to thin drainage to allow lungs to clear more easily.
These two are frequently combined in many medications along with a decongestant and pain reliever.
07. Talk to the Pharmacist
If you wish to take over-the-counter medications to help with symptoms, taking the time to ask the pharmacist about your specific needs can be very helpful. They will be able to let you know if you need a decongestant, antihistamine, specific type of nasal spray, cough suppressant or expectorant, and which type of medications have combined ingredients. The Pharmacist will also know if you can take more than one medication at the same time for optimal effectiveness.
08. Walk-in Clinic
Most cold and flu symptoms will get better with time. However, if you have been using all of these tips and feel your symptoms are getting worse, you may want to consult your family doctor or head to a walk-in clinic.
You can do it! Feel free to strike a power pose and tell yourself that you have never felt so healthy in your whole life. At HealthOne, we believe that information is power and picking the strategy that feels right for you is always the best option.