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10 Natural Cold and Flu Remedies That Work

The irony is not lost on me that I’m currently writing this post while recovering from a cold/cough. I generally get one really bad cold every year and seeing as I managed to evade it for most of 2017, I’m not surprised that it reared it’s ugly head in the final weeks of the year. Hoping this will be the only one I get during cold and flu season!

Sometimes you get sick. It happens to all of us. And even though it could always be worse, it still totally sucks to be coughing up a lung or plowing through tissues like it’s your job. Sometimes sympathy is the best remedy!

But when that doesn’t work, I have my go-to protocol to help my body heal faster. I’m someone who takes meds as a final course of action. I’m not against western medicine and using medication to treat your body, but for things like colds and flus, it’s just not my jam. There are so many effective remedies for treating colds and flus naturally that I’d rather reach for my kitchen cupboards than my medicine cabinet.

I know I’m not alone in this sentiment, so I’m thrilled to see big brands jumping on board with consumer demand for natural remedies. I’m thrilled to be partnering with CVS pharmacy on this post, who has just come out with their Live Better line full of products that provide simple solutions that help your body heal naturally. Using only essential ingredients, Live Better products are free from artificial preservatives, dyes, colors and flavors, so you can feel good about using for yourself or sharing with your loved ones. It’s amazing to see consumer demand driving business supply. Let’s keep it up!

With that, I do have a protocol I like to follow when I feel my body getting sick or if the illness has already set-in. These 10 Natural Cold and Flu Remedies will help your body heal naturally without the use of over-the-counter drugs. Do all 10 or pick a few to stick to, but remember to remain consistent and be kind to your body. Stress can also induce and perpetuate illness so don’t forget to relax, sleep and let your body slow down. With that, here are 10 Natural Cold and Flu Remedies that actually work:

1. Gargle with salt water

Do this as soon as you start feeling sick! Not only can it help relieve a sore, scratchy throat, but if you go back to your middle school science days, water follows salt (#osmosis) so the idea is that gargling salt water actually pulls viral fluids out from the throat area. 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt dissolved in an 8-ounce glass of warm water and gargle it all 1-2x a day.

2. Honey

Honey not only helps soothe a sore throat it also works as a cough suppressant. Honey can soothe irritated mucous membranes which helps remove the irritation that is fuelling the cough reflex. CVS’s Live Better Cough Syrup is a great drug-free remedy, which uses a blend of dark honeys, vitamin C and zinc. Both vitamin c and zinc have been shown to help support your immune system so that’s a triple whammy! There’s also no artificial ingredients or added dyes or flavors so it’s a great natural solution for your cold and cough symptoms. Don’t forget to reach for the Children’s Cough Syrup for children over 12 months.

3. Take a Ginger Shot

Ginger is anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. It has been known to help with congestion, nausea, colds, and fevers. Either pick one up from a local juice store or juice a knob of ginger yourself. Eating ginger can also help but for the best bang for your buck, go for the juice shot.

4. Elderberry syrup

Elderberry is a fruit grown from the elder tree that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties making it a powerhouse when it comes to fighting colds. Studies have shown taking elderberry syrup can shorten colds and flus and also relieve sinus infections. Triple threat.

5. Propolis

Did you know that bees produce more than just honey? Yep, they make propolis too. Propolis is the substance bees use to seal in their hives so it’s super anti-viral and anti-bacterial. It’s great at fighting the common cold or sore throats. This one is my favorite.

6. Essential oils

Power to the plants! There are many powerful essential oils for cold and flus but here are a few that are easily accessible: Eucalyptus oil has antiviral and antimicrobial properties which have historically been used to treat the common cold. Peppermint oil is used as a natural decongestant and fever-reducer. It’s like a natural VapoRub. Just make sure when applying topically that you mix with a carrier oil!

7. Garlic

Garlic is a powerful antioxidant with antimicrobial, antiviral and antibiotic properties. Garlic is packed with minerals, enzymes, vitamin C, sulphur, and selenium which all help bust colds and flus. Enjoy garlic in your meals or eat a clove whole if you’re seriously brave.

8. Probiotics

This one is a little tricky. If you read my SIBO post, you might remember that when my gut wasn’t healthy, probiotics did me no good (in fact, they made things worse) HOWEVER if you have a healthy gut, probiotics can help give your immune system a boost. Whether through a probiotic pill or probiotic rich foods like yogurt and sauerkraut, it all starts in your gut!

9. Bone Broth

Bone broth, or that chicken soup Jewish grandmothers have been making for centuries, actually isn’t just a tall tale. A bowl of chicken soup, or homemade bone broth can be effective in helping to fight colds and flus. Bone broth contains anti-inflammatory amino acids and is packed full of immune supporting vitamins and minerals that are extra easy for your body to digest.. Don’t reach for those bouillon cubes though – you gotta use the real stuff to get the benefits!

10. Epsom salt bath

Add epsom salt to a hot bath along with some essential oils if you’d like to have a relaxing, detoxifying evening. Again with the osmosis thing, the minerals in the bath cause the toxins in your body to be released in the bath so not only is it relaxing, but it’s good for you too.

BONUS: Sleep! Give your body the rest it needs. I’ve learned this lesson many times over, but to really help your body heal you need to sleep as much as your body needs. Don’t just try to push through illness. Your body is working extra hard to fight something so rest and allow it to recover. If you’re having trouble sleeping, check out Live Better’s Immunity + Melatonin, which is a mixture of immune-boosting vitamins + minerals plus melatonin to help you sleep.

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Huge thank you to CVS for partnering with me on this post and offering natural solutions for helping our bodies fight common illnesses. I’m excited to see what products you come out with next! In the meantime, I’m super excited that they are offering one lucky THM reader and awesome prize pack full of Live Better products + a $25 CVS gift card! All you have to do is share your favorite natural cold and flu remedy below. Giveaway is open to US residents and runs until 12/21 at 12:00 AM PST. Good luck!

Disclaimer: I’m proud to be working with CVS Pharmacy to help spread the word about #BetterHealthMadeEasy and how to #FindYourHealthy. All opinions expressed are my own, and all product claims or program details shared should be verified at CVS.com or with the appropriate manufacturers. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make THM possible!

What are your go-to natural cold and flu remedies? Did I miss anything?

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7 Natural Flu Remedies That Actually Work

2. Gargle Often to Soothe a Sore Throat

“If you have a sore throat, gargle with water or salt water,” Dr. Horovitz recommends. Gargling often may help reduce swelling in the throat and loosen mucus, which can remove irritants, such as bacteria and allergens, from the throat.

3. Get Better Faster With Zinc

Zinc lozenges can help you feel better faster if you start taking them as soon as you feel fluish, says Neil Schachter, MD, medical director of the Mount Sinai–National Jewish Health Respiratory Institute in New York City and the author of The Good Doctor’s Guide to Colds & Flu. “I recommend using one or two lozenges per day,” he says. Zinc may help boost immunity, which can shorten the duration or severity of the flu, he explains. However, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health advises checking with your doctor or pharmacist first as zinc may interact with antibiotics and penicillamine, a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

4. Drink Enough to Dodge Dehydration

“If you have a fever, you’re at risk for dehydration, so it’s important to make sure you’re drinking enough fluids,” says Dana Simpler, MD, a primary care doctor at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. One way dehydration delays your recovery is by making it harder for the immune system soldiers that squelch invading viruses to travel through your body.

5. Chase Trouble Away With Chicken Soup

Chicken soup isn’t just warm and comforting. A study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics found that a compound in chicken soup called carnosine can help the body’s immune system fight off the flu in its early days. A previous study published in the journal Chest, suggested that chicken soup has an anti-inflammatory effect that may ease symptoms and shorten upper respiratory tract infections. Dr. Schachter notes that soup and other hot liquids, such as tea, have other benefits: They relieve nasal congestion, help you stay hydrated, and soothe inflamed membranes in your nose and throat.

6. Clear Congestion Quickly With a Neti Pot

If you’re stuffed up and feeling miserable, using a neti pot — a small teapot-like vessel with a long spout — to flush mucus from your nasal passages twice a day can help, Horovitz says. This is done by placing a saline solution made with distilled, sterilized, or previously boiled water in the neti pot and following the instructions that came with neti pot.

7. Keep Nasal Passageways Moist With Steamy Showers

Taking a long steamy shower can help moisturize your throat and nasal passages, while also helping to clear them of mucus, Schachter says. If the flu is making you feel light-headed or weak, simply turn on the hot water, sit in the bathroom and inhale the steam for up to 10 minutes.

Still not feeling better? It may be time to move beyond natural flu remedies and seek medical help. It’s important to contact your healthcare provider, as the flu can have serious consequences, ranging from ear infections to pneumonia to worsening of chronic conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, and diabetes, according to the CDC. “You should be feeling better within five to seven days, but if you are not and still have a fever or have started to feel badly again, be sure to call your doctor,” Schachter says.

Cold and Flu: Natural Remedies

  • General measures for speedy recovery from cold and flu
    • Rest
    • Diet
    • Exercise
    • Avoid smoking
  • Relieving specific cold and flu symptoms
    • Stuffy noses
    • Sore throats
    • Cough
    • Chills
    • Fever
  • Herbal remedies for cold and flu
    • Vitamin C
    • Echinacea
    • Zinc
    • Asian herbal remedies

General measures for speedy recovery from cold and flu

When you have a cold or flu, symptoms like coughs and sniffles are annoying and can leave you feeling pretty miserable. But you’ll find many cold and flu symptoms can be temporarily relieved using natural remedies.

You’ll want to get over your cold and flu symptoms and back to your normal work and social schedule as quickly as possible. Being generally healthy is important. When cold and flu strike, it’s also important to get plenty of rest and not over-exert yourself to ensure you recover from your cold or flu as quickly as possible.

Rest

Rest is important because it helps your immune system fight cold and flu infection. Getting plenty of rest also helps you cope with feeling unwell and tired. Try to do less when you’re sick with cold or flu, whether that means taking time off work, leaving early, or getting someone else to do the housework and mind the kids. Sleep for 7–8 hours each night.

Diet

Your recovery from cold or flu will be faster if you maintain a healthy diet and drink plenty of fluids during your illness. Remember that healthy eating and drinking is not just about eating the right foods, it’s also about avoiding the wrong ones; steer clear of unhealthy substances including alcohol and caffeine.

For more information on eating and drinking during cold and flu infection, see Cold and Flu: What to Eat and Drink to Get Better Faster.

Exercise

When you have a cold, moderate exercise like walking can help alleviate some of the symptoms, but don’t overdo it. Heavy exercise is not recommended as it can make symptoms worse.

Avoid smoking

Smoking interrupts your body’s natural processes which keep foreign particles out of the respiratory organs including the nose and lungs. Quit smoking or reduce the amount you smoke during periods of cold and flu infection and you’ll reduce the chance of developing another, more serious infection of the respiratory tract.

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Relieving specific cold and flu symptoms

Stuffy noses

If you have cold or flu there’s a good chance your nose is blocked and stuffy. Nasal congestion is the most common symptom of cold and flu. Thankfully there are many natural ways to relieve it.

Nose blowing

Blowing your nose is the simplest way to get rid of nasal mucus and clear up a stuffy nose. There is such a thing as ‘proper nose blowing technique’. Doing it properly will limit the spread of cold and flu viruses to your ears and sinuses and reduce the likelihood you will pass your cold or flu onto someone else.

How to blow your nose properly:

  • Use disposable tissues: Use them only once before disposal. Tissues should be disposed of immediately after use.
  • Do not use cloth handkerchiefs: They harbor cold and flu germs and increase the risk of them spreading to other organs such as your sinuses and/or other people.
  • Clear both your nostrils simultaneously: Do not block off one nostril while clearing the other by blowing, as this could force the mucus into your ears or sinuses. Rather, blow gently with both nostrils open.
  • Wash your hands immediately: After blowing your nose, using the correct hand washing technique. That means lathering your hands with soap for at least 15 seconds when washing or using an alcohol-based hand disinfectant to ensure cold and flu viruses are removed from your hands.

Suctioning nasal mucus for infants and children who cannot blow their nose

If you’re caring for a baby or young child with a cold or flu, they may not be able to blow their nose yet. You will need to help them clear the mucus from their nose. Use a bulb syringe to gently suction the mucus out of their nose. The syringe should have a blunt tip. It’s best to clear the nose before feedings and sleep.

How to suction nasal passages using a bulb syringe:

  1. Push the air out of the bulb by squeezing it;
  2. Insert the syringe into your baby or child’s nose (0.5–1 cm);
  3. Hold the syringe in place;
  4. Release the bulb to suction mucus from the nose;
  5. Remove the syringe from the nose;
  6. Pump the bulb to release the mucus;
  7. Repeat the process until you have removed the mucus;
  8. Wash the syringe with soap and hot water;
  9. Leave it to air dry when you have finished.

Using a humidifier

Dry air can make cold and flu symptoms like a stuffy nose worse. So using a humidifier to moisten the air in your home can help relieve a stuffy nose. It’s best to place the humidifier or vaporiser in the room where you spend most of your time. Change the water in the humidifier every day to prevent mould building up.

Steam inhalation

Inhaling steam can also help clear a blocked nose, but it’s a remedy that should be reserved for adults. When steam enters your nose it helps loosen the mucus that’s blocking it. You will find that blowing your nose is easier after steam inhalation.

To set up a steam inhalation system at home:

  1. Fill a large bowl with hot water;
  2. You might also like to add a drop menthol or eucalyptus to the water;
  3. Sit with your face over the bowl;
  4. Place a towel over your head and the bowl to trap the steam;
  5. Close your eyes to avoid them filling with steam;
  6. Breathe deeply.

Never use the steam inhalation system for children. It is not safe because they may scald themselves with the hot water.

Alternatively take a hot shower (with the door closed and the fan off) – you will be inhaling steam while in the shower and this will help to relieve congestion. This is a good technique for your children. You could also sit your child in a hot, steamy bathroom while the shower is running. Make sure you supervise them at all times while they are in the bathroom.

Prevent skin chafing

When you have a cold or flu and are blowing your nose often, it doesn’t take long for the skin around your nose to dry out, and it may start chafing. Applying petroleum gel or moisturising lotion to the skin of your nose will help prevent chafing and irritation.

Sore throats

If your cold or flu is causing a sore throat, there are many natural ways to relieve it. Try:

  • Gargling salty water several times a day. To prepare a salt water gargle:
    1. Mix 1–3 teaspoons of salt with one cup of warm water;
    2. Use a small amount to gargle;
    3. Spit the salt water out once you have finished gargling.
  • Drink hot water with honey and lemon. This simple home remedy relieves sore throats and can be prepared in a couple of minutes by mixing lemon and honey with a cup of hot water.
  • Suck on an ice cube or a throat lozenge.

Cough

If your cough is keeping you awake at night, the following may provide relief:

  • Have a hot drink before lying down;
  • Use a humidifier in your bedroom;
  • Elevate your head with an extra pillow or two.

Water is also a great natural cough remedy. Drink eight cups of water per day while you have a cold or flu to keep the body well hydrated and also help your cough – research has proven that staying well hydrated is just as good as using cough medicines.

Chills

Keep warm by covering up with a blanket to help relieve chills.

Fever

If you have influenza, there’s a good chance you have a fever. Staying cool is important when your body is overheated because of fever. Dress in cool light clothing and keep the house cool. When sleeping, cover up with a light blanket.

Wipe your face, arms and legs with a washer to cool down and make yourself more comfortable. Have a luke warm bath to relieve the heat and discomfort associated with fever. However, if you start shivering, get out of the bath immediately. If your body is shivering, its trying to warm itself up. Your muscles work hard to produce the shivering actions and this actually increases your body temperature.

If you have a fever, it’s also important to drink plenty of fluids to compensate for the water lost from your body when you sweat. Rest is also important because physical activity raises your body temperature and because rest helps you recover quickly.

Herbal remedies for cold and flu

Although you probably want to do everything you can to speed up your recovery, be wary of herbal remedies for cold and flu. Unlike medicines, the manufacture and sale of herbal remedies are unregulated. However, like medicines, herbal remedies do have the potential to interfere with your body’s chemistry and produce dangerous side effects. On rare occasions people have died after using herbal remedies.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is used by many people to prevent and treat colds and flu, although the health benefits are not yet definitively proven. If you choose to use vitamin C, use it in addition to, rather than instead of, other treatments for cold and flu. Never substitute cold and flu treatments and flu vaccines which have been proven effective for unproven natural therapies.

Vitamin C is generally safe (except in very high doses) and there is some evidence that it can reduce the severity and duration of symptoms. However, it does not prevent colds.

Echinacea

Echinacea is another popular herbal remedy. While some studies suggest that echinacea may be effective in the early treatment of cold and flu, others show that echinacea doesn’t help symptoms or speed up recovery. If you choose to use echinacea, use it to complement rather than replace therapies which have been proven effective. Be aware that some people, including those with auto-immune conditions (e.g. colitis) and allergies to other plants, are allergic to echinacea and develop a skin rash when they use it.

Zinc

Zinc is a natural substance which has been shown to fight against viruses. Some research suggests that sucking zinc lozenges helps adults fight cold and flu, but more research is needed to prove that is definitely the case. Be aware that zinc nasal sprays are associated with temporary loss of smell and should not be used. If you decide to use zinc lozenges, start taking them within 24 hours of your symptoms appearing.

Asian herbal remedies

Avoid herbal remedies manufactured in Asian countries. Like other herbal remedies, their manufacture and sale is not regulated. Some herbal remedies manufactured in Asia may contain tiny amounts of harmful substances, including drugs which can damage the kidneys, be toxic and/or cause cancer.

More information

For more information on the common cold and influenza, types of influenza and treatments and tips for preventing influenza, see Cold and Flu.

Home Remedies for Cold & Flu Symptoms

Each year, millions of children and adults in the U.S. fall ill during cold and flu season. While it’s important to seek medical attention for severe or protracted symptoms, there are also several simple things you can do at home to alleviate symptoms, prevent the illness from worsening, and even help the infection resolve faster.

Here are some simple suggestions that can help you and your family feel better this cold and flu season.

1) Choose an Over-The-Counter (OTC) Fever Reducer.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) are effective in treating headaches and body aches that patients often experience from colds and the flu. In addition, these medicines also help to reduce fever, which is important because the higher your temperature is, the faster water evaporates from your skin surface, leading to dehydration.

*** Please remember that pregnant women, patients with underlying medical conditions, patients with certain medication allergies, and caretakers of infants should consult a healthcare professional to make sure they’re giving the correct medication in the correct dose.

2) Drink Plenty of Fluids.

Since viruses can cause vomiting, diarrhea, fever and excessive mucus production, all of which can lead to significant fluid losses, it’s important to replenish these losses by staying hydrated while you’re sick.

Especially if you’re experiencing vomiting or diarrhea, drinking slow sips of electrolyte-rich fluid (such as Pedialyte or Gatorade) can not only prevent dehydration, but can also help to replace the electrolytes you’ve lost.

It’s important to note that if you go more than eight hours without urinating, or if you have a headache, dizziness, weakness, incessant vomiting or dark urine, you should seek immediate medical attention, since these symptoms can indicate severe dehydration.

3) Beat the Cold with Lots of Rest.

Your body’s immune system needs plenty of sleep in order to function properly. People who are sleep-deprived are more likely to become ill when they’re exposed to viruses such as influenza or the common cold. And, if they do get sick, their symptoms are more likely to last longer than if they were well-rested.

This cold and flu season, make sure you get at least seven hours of sleep each night. And if you do get a cold or the flu, rest as much as possible throughout the day to help your body recover faster.

4) Use Grocery Store Ingredients to Treat Your Cough.

Believe it or not, common grocery store items can help alleviate a cough just as well (if not better!) than pharmaceutical cough suppressants.

Honey has been shown to be as effective as over-the-counter cough suppressants. One of the reasons it works is because of its viscosity, so we recommend eating it straight off the spoon instead of adding it to your tea in order to get the maximum benefit. (Just remember that honey is not recommended for children under 1 year of age.)

Chocolate is another tasty grocery store ingredient that’s an effective cough suppressant. Cocoa contains theobromine, a compound that suppresses coughs more effectively than codeine, a mild narcotic that’s often in prescription-strength cough suppressants.

Menthol lozenges are another effective cough treatment, since menthol is a mild anesthetic that numbs your cough reflex.

5) Chicken Noodle Soup for the Flu.

Recent scientific studies have proven what our moms and grandmas have known for years: chicken noodle soup is effective in relieving symptoms from the common cold! Patients who eat chicken noodle soup while they’re under the weather typically have less severe cold symptoms, and sometimes even a shorter duration of infection.

Chicken noodle soup works for several reasons. First, the steam from the broth alleviates congestion in your sinuses and chest. Second, the soup contains well-balanced nutrition, including carbohydrates, vegetables, hydration and protein. And third, chicken contains cysteine, an amino acid that helps break down mucus quickly.

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Natural Remedies for the Cold & Flu

Some cold and flu symptoms, like fever, coughing, and congestion, are your immune system’s way of fighting illness, and can be a helpful part of the healing process. For example, a fever kills viruses with high temperatures, so enduring a moderate fever for a day or two can get you better faster than if you suppress it with medication.

Likewise, coughing, sneezing, and a runny nose can also help you heal faster by clearing your airways of germ-ridden mucus. So holding off on the decongestants and cough suppressants may actually shorten the duration of your cold or flu. While being sick is no fun, sometimes the wisest choice is to let your body fight with its own natural resources.

Here are some things you can do to support your body in healing, and staying more comfortable while it does.

  • Get plenty of rest: Perhaps the most important thing you can do is give your body the rest it needs to fight infection and heal. Stay home from work and school (your colleagues will thank you for not spreading germs), make sure you’re nice and warm, and curl up with a good book, movie, or series you’ve been meaning to catch up on.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking water, tea, juices, clear broth, or warm lemon water with honey prevents dehydration from a fever and also helps to dilute congestion and carry it out. Stay away from alcohol, coffee, and sodas, which can be dehydrating.
  • Gargle: Gargling half a teaspoon of salt dissolved in eight ounces of warm water several times a day can help relieve a sore or scratchy throat. You can also gargle with honey dissolved in warm water or some honey and lemon for a soothing treat.
  • Keep the throat moist: To relieve pain from a raw or sore throat, try sucking on ice chips, popsicles, or mentholated cough drops. You can also try herbal and over-the-counter throat sprays to ease the pain.
  • Humidify: Humid air can help loosen congestion and soothe a sore throat and nose. It also creates an inhospitable environment for influenza, which prefers a dry climate. To create humidity, you can use a cool mist humidifier. For extra benefit, try adding a few drops of eucalyptus or peppermint oil to the water to stimulate breathing and clear your sinuses. It’s important to note that the water used in humidifiers should be changed daily to avoid mold and fungi from growing. If you don’t have a humidifier, take a hot steamy shower to moisturize your dry air passages and ease any muscular aches from the flu. If you feel weak or dizzy from the flu, you can sit in the bathroom and while a steamy shower runs.
  • Blow your nose: This might seem like a no-brainer, but blow your nose! Mucus is produced to help move germs out of the body, so it’s important to blow your nose regularly rather than sniffling mucus back. To avoid causing an earache by blowing too hard, try covering one nostril with a finger while gently blowing the other one. Same thing goes for not suppressing a sneeze–let it go!
  • Irrigate a stuffy nose with warm salt water: Rinsing with warm salt water can help loosen nasal congestion, and encourage virus particles and bacteria to flow from your nose.
    A popular method: Mix 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda in 8 ounces of warm water. Tip your head to one side, and using a bulb syringe or a nasal irrigation kit like a neti pot, pour water into one nostril. Hold the other nostril closed with light pressure from the outside of the nose. Then let the water drain out. Repeat two to three times, then treat the other nostril. You can also use over-the-counter saline nasal drops and sprays.
  • Warm bath: A warm bath can soothe the body aches that can accompany the flu. Baths are also surefire ways to relax and induce drowsiness to help you get that good night’s sleep that is so important to your immune system. You can try adding Epsom salt and baking soda to your bath to further reduce body aches, or some drops of tea tree, juniper, rosemary, thyme, orange, lavender, or eucalyptus essential oils to clear nasal passages and for a soothing effect.
  • Mentholated salve: Placing a small dab of salve with menthol, eucalyptus, and camphor under your nose can help to open breathing passages and calm skin irritated from wiping and blowing. You can also try spreading some vapor rub on your chest to help open airways, reduce coughing, and improve sleep.
  • Elevate your head: Sleeping with an extra pillow under your head while you’re congested will help to clear nasal passages by encouraging mucus to drain down. It can help you cough and sniffle less throughout the night.

Eight home remedies for treating a cold

Consider the following eight common home remedies:

Share on PinterestA common home remedy is to gargle with warm saltwater or honey and lemon juice.

1. Gargling

This old-school remedy can ease a sore throat, which is often one of the first symptoms of a cold. People can choose from a variety of saltwater gargle recipes, including gargling with 1 teaspoon of salt mixed in a cup of warm water.

Another option is gargling with warm water that is mixed with half a teaspoon of lemon juice and honey. With any gargling solutions, people should be sure that the water is not too hot, which can lead to burns.

2. Sipping fluids

Drinking plenty of fluids can help prevent dehydration and may thin mucus. Water is the best bet when it comes to staying well hydrated. Other liquids such as juice are also acceptable.

Tea with lemon and honey and other hot drinks may help break up congestion and ease a sore throat. Hot soup, especially spicy soups, may promote nasal drainage and make breathing easier.

People who have a cold should avoid alcohol, which can contribute to dehydration.

3. Steam

Breathing in steam from a hot shower may decrease nasal congestion and sinus pressure, at least temporarily. An alternative to a hot shower is filling a pot with boiling water, placing a towel over the head and breathing in the steam.

Steam soothes the tissues of the nose and throat and to make steam inhalation even more effective, people can consider adding eucalyptus, which is an essential oil. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy suggest adding 3 to 7 drops of eucalyptus oil to boiling water and inhaling the steam through the nose.

A range of eucalyptus oils is available for purchase online. People should close the eyes to avoid irritation.

4. Blowing the nose correctly

Blowing the nose may seem like a no-brainer. But it’s important to blow the nose correctly in order to clear the nasal passages as much as possible. Sniffing mucus back up can force it into the ears and lead to an earache.

To blow the nose correctly, people should block one nostril and gently blow into a tissue, then switch and block the opposite nostril and blow.

Additional home remedies for children

All the home remedies that may work for an adult can also be used with a child. Children may also benefit from a few additional home remedies, including the following:

Share on PinterestA humidifier may help to decrease cold symptoms.

5. Using a humidifier

A humidifier or cool mist vaporizer can decrease cold symptoms, such as a sore throat, cough, and congestion. Caregivers can place a cool mist vaporizer or humidifier in the child’s room to add moisture to the home.

People should be sure to change the water daily. Also, cleaning the unit as instructed by the manufacturer prevents the buildup of mildew and mold.

A range of humidifiers is available for purchase online.

6. Saline drops

Saline drops can help promote mucus drainage and clear the nasal cavity. While kids may not tolerate using a Neti pot to flush out the sinuses, they may be accepting of a few drops of saline in each nostril.

In very young children who have trouble blowing their nose, it may also be helpful to use a rubber bulb suction to remove mucus after using saline drops.

A range of saline drops is available for purchase online.

7. Acetaminophen

Children are more likely than an adult to develop a fever when they have a cold. Although a fever is usually not harmful, it can make a child feel miserable.

To treat a fever and sore throat, caregivers can consider over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, also available for purchase online. In children over the age of 6 months, ibuprofen can also be used.

Cold medicines containing a decongestant may be appropriate for children over the age of 6, but should not be given to younger kids. As always, it’s best to talk to a healthcare provider regarding medications for children.

People should not give aspirin to children due to the possibility of a child developing Reye’s syndrome. Although rare, Reye’s syndrome is a serious illness that can be life-threatening. Research indicates that aspirin may trigger the development of the illness in some children.

8. Honey preparations

A research study published in Pediatrics suggested that giving honey to children before bedtime helped decrease nighttime coughs.

Honey should not be given to babies under the age of 1, however, because it contains botulinum spores. If the spores grow in a baby’s immature digestive tract, they can make a baby sick.

Sniffling, sneezing, congestion and coughing — it can be hard to fight off the germs. Before you try your favorite home remedy, here’s what works and what may be a waste of time and money.

Cold remedies: What works, what doesn’t of honey, Vitamin C, more

Jan. 25, 201602:58

Honey

It works! Tea with honey or warm lemon water mixed with honey is actually useful in alleviating coughing in children and can help relieve a sore throat in adults.

In one study, children age 2 and older with upper respiratory tract infections were given up to 2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) of honey at bedtime, according to the Mayo Clinic. With the honey, night coughing was reduced and sleep was easier.

In fact, in the study, honey appeared to be as effective as a common cough suppressant ingredient, dextromethorphan, in typical over-the-counter doses.

Tea with honey or warm lemon water mixed with honey can help ease coughing in children and helps relieve a sore throat in adults.Damian Dovarganes / AP

The type of honey used in the studies was buckwheat, a darker, stronger-tasting variety, but any type should soothe and coat a scratchy throat. Give a spoonful to your child before bed and as needed.

However, due to the risk of infant botulism, a rare but serious form of food poisoning, never give honey to a child younger than age 1.

And remember: Coughing helps clear out mucus so if you or your child is otherwise healthy, you don’t need to suppress the cough.

Vitamin C

It doesn’t seem to work. Although a few studies suggest vitamin C might shorten the duration of a cold, others find no benefit, and no major studies show that vitamin C eases influenza. Vitamin C doesn’t show protection against catching a cold, either.

Research indicates that taking a vitamin C supplement may help treat a cold only if your body has a deficiency in the vitamin. For example, people who live in cold climates may have low levels of the vitamin so a supplement may offer some protection. But you’d get the same benefit from regular, vigorous exercise.

Vitamin C is generally considered safe; however, high doses can cause digestive problems such as diarrhea and nausea. Studies show no benefit from taking other vitamins, such as vitamin E, for colds.

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Zinc

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It can help!

An analysis of research found that taking zinc supplements through the first few days of a cold, either as a syrup or lozenge, may shorten the illness. But because supplements aren’t regulated, you can’t always be sure of the formulation and how effective it is.

It also appeared to prevent colds in people who used it over the course of about 5 months.

While people who have zinc deficiency may have weakened immune systems, that does not necessarily mean that more zinc is better. Whole grains are rich in zinc and a balanced diet may provide all you need.

Zinc is toxic in high doses. And the Food and Drug Administration recommends against using zinc nasal gel because it can cause a permanent loss of smell. One Canadian study suggests that zinc supplements might help reduce the severity of the common cold, but different formulations of different products make it a difficult theory to test.

Hot liquids

They work! A cup of hot tea can ease sniffles, sneezing and congestion.

Hot liquids have long been promised to help loosen secretions in the chest and sinuses, making them easier to expel and ultimately clearing up congestion.

In December, researchers at the Common Cold Center at Cardiff University in Britain looked at whether hot beverages relieved the symptoms of 30 people suffering from the flu or common cold any better than drinks at room temperature. They found that the contrast was marked.

“The hot drink provided immediate and sustained relief from symptoms of runny nose, cough, sneezing, sore throat, chilliness and tiredness,” they reported, “whereas the same drink at room temperature only provided relief from symptoms of runny nose, cough and sneezing.”

While this was the first study to look specifically at the effects of hot drinks on cold and flu symptoms, others have looked at hot foods like chicken soup and had similar results.

Chili pepper

It doesn’t work.

Some people believe chili pepper containing a compound called Capsaicin can clear up congestion and even prevent a cold.

Experts from National Institutes of Health and Duke University says it just isn’t so.

The pepper, which is believed to help with pain and stimulate the gut, does not do anything for cold symptoms or prevention.

Echinacea

There’s little evidence any herbal remedies help a cold. Numerous studies show echinachea doesn’t prevent colds or flu or even help treat symptoms.

Echinacea is a flowering plant that grows in the U.S. and Canada and has been touted as medicine for centuries. There are nine species of echinacea, including the purple coneflower or black-eyed Susan. The leaves, stems, flower, and roots are used to make supplements, liquid extracts, and teas.

Only a small amount of research on echinacea has been done in children, and the results of that research are inconsistent.

One exception to herbal remedies: There is some evidence that fresh garlic might help prevent colds, and there’s little harm in eating it.

Salt water

Rinsing with salt water helps break nasal congestion and rinse out the sinuses.

You can do this with a neti pot or bulb syringe.

Always use distilled, sterile, or previous boiled water when you make this solution. Otherwise you might get an infection. Also, rinse the bulb or Neti pot after each use and leave open to air dry.

This updated story was originally published in 2016

And don’t skimp on nighttime sleep. “Good sleep cycles help the immune system work well, so it’s important to get your full eight hours of sleep each night,” Schaffner says.

4. Humidify. Breathing moist air helps ease nasal congestion and sore throat pain. One good strategy is to indulge in a steamy shower several times a day — or just turn on the shower and sit in the bathroom for a few minutes, inhaling the steam. Another is to use a steam vaporizer or a humidifier. Clean it often to make sure it’s free of mold and mildew.

5. Make a tent. Need a quick way to open clogged airways? Bring a pot of water to a boil and remove it from the heat. Drape a towel over your head, close your eyes, and lean over the water under the “tent,” breathing deeply through your nose for 30 seconds. David Kiefer, MD, clinical instructor of family medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, recommends adding a drop or two of peppermint or eucalyptus oil to the water for extra phlegm-busting power. Repeat this as often as necessary to ease congestion.

6. Try a warm compress. On the forehead and nose, a warm cloth is a great way to relieve headache or sinus pain.

7. Be a sucker. Cough drops, throat lozenges, and hard candy can be surprisingly effective at easing a cough or sore throat. Some doctors, including Kiefer, swear by lozenges containing slippery elm. Others recommend zinc lozenges to help shorten cold symptoms, though Schaffner is not convinced of their effectiveness. “If there is an effect , it’s a small one,” he says. “I wish their effect were as good as their taste is bad.”

8. Swish and spit. Gargling with salt water helps get rid of the thick mucus that can collect at the back of the throat, especially after you’ve been lying down. It can also help ease stuffy ears, Kiefer says.

9. Try nasal irrigation. To ease stuffiness and post-nasal drip — and perhaps cut the risk of getting a sinus infection — some doctors recommend nasal irrigation. You can buy a neti pot in health food stores and drugstores, or opt for a saline squeeze bottle. You pour salt water into one nostril and let it run out the other, clearing out your nasal passages. You can buy pre-made saline solution or make it by mixing salt and lukewarm sterile or distilled water.

10. Line up a caregiver. A caregiver can’t lower your temperature or cure a sore throat, but “having someone to tuck you into bed and bring you fluids is very comforting,” says Blackwelder. If a friend or family member offers to help, even if it’s only to stop by and check in on you, count your blessings — and take them up on it.

How to Treat the Flu

If you have the flu, you probably aren’t feeling too well right about now. Here’s the bad news: there’s no cure for it and it usually lasts for one to two weeks. The good news? We’ll tell you about some simple flu treatments that can help you feel better in the meantime (plus, we’ll give you suggestions to help you avoid the flu next time around). Here’s how to treat the flu—or at least those pesky flu symptoms:

5 Ways to Treat the Flu

  • Rest up: When you first come down with the flu, rest is what will help give your body the energy it needs to fight the flu virus and flu symptoms. This is when you should spend lots of time in bed and on the couch. Stay at home and rest, especially during the first 24 hours after becoming ill (unless medical attention is necessary).

  • Avoid contact with others: If you think you have the flu, it’s best to stay home and avoid close contact with those that are healthy. Flu viruses commonly spread through airborne droplets created when an infected person sneezes or coughs.

  • Stay hydrated: Drinking lots of liquids like water, sports drinks or electrolyte beverages will help prevent dehydration and treat the flu. And don’t forget tea and broth—hot liquids help relieve nasal congestion and soothe the uncomfortably inflamed membranes that line your nose and throat.

  • Take some medicine: If you’ve got a fever, cough or other flu symptoms, over-the-counter cough and cold medicines, like NyQuil and DayQuil can help ease flu symptoms in adults. NyQuil and DayQuil temporarily relieve common symptoms, such as fever and body aches. And for relief of your worst cold and flu symptoms, you can try NyQuil and DayQuil SEVERE.

  • See your doctor: It’s important to note that if you become very sick with the flu or are at a high risk of developing complications from the flu, you should call your doctor. He or she may put you on antiviral drugs within the 48 hours of your symptoms, which can lessen the severity and duration of flu symptoms.

4 Ways to Boost Your Immune System

As you’re figuring out how to treat the flu, it’s also important to remember that the best protection against cold and flu season is a healthy immune system. So here’s how to keep it strong:

  • De-stress: Research shows that stress decreases your ability to stay healthy, especially during cold and flu season. Try taking a mini meditation break during the day—just close your eyes and focus on breathing in and out for a few minutes (and if you have even more time, go for it!).

  • Get enough sleep: When you consistently sleep seven to eight hours a night, your body has a chance to repair cells and maintain your immune system.

  • Eat well: A nutritious and well-balanced diet gives your body the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. Make sure to include a good variety of fruits and vegetables in your daily meals—along with protein and healthy fats.

  • Exercise: A common recommendation is to try for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least three times a week.

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6 home remedies for flu in kids [Infographic]

Symptoms of the flu in kids can include sore throat, muscle aches, congestion, fever, chills and fatigue. If your child is feeling sick, help them feel better by encouraging rest and keeping them hydrated. You can also try these kid-friendly flu home remedies to give relief.

How to treat the flu at home

  1. Consider using a cool mist humidifier to soothe an irritated or sore throat.
  2. Only for children older than 1 year, give a teaspoon of honey prior to brushing their teeth to help with nighttime cough. See more cough remedies for kids.
  3. For children who are too young to blow their nose, use a bulb suction to remove mucus.
  4. Encourage your child to breathe in moist, warm water vapors from a shower or bath to loosen mucus.
  5. Avoid giving cough and cold medications to kids. Learn why these medications are not recommended for young children.
  6. For children over 6 months old, give your child plenty of warm fluids.

Some symptoms of the flu in kids warrant medical attention. Learn when to call the doctor and when to visit the ER for the flu. You can also learn when your child should take Tamiflu to relieve symptoms.

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House remedies for cold

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