How to treat the flu or a cold

A cold or a flu can make you feel awful. The cold - a viral infection that affects the upper respiratory tract - typically causes sneezing, a sore throat, stuffy or runny nose and congestion.

The flu, short for influenza, is another viral infection in the respiratory tract. It can cause many of the same symptoms as the flu, but you might also experience fever, aches and pains and a cough. Because both infections are viral, antibiotics won't provide a cure. However it's usually easy to treat flu and cold symptoms at home.


As both the cold and the flu can cause headaches and sore throats, over-the-counter pain relief can help. Paracetamol or ibuprofen are two common treatments.

For a runny nose and sneezing, try an antihistamine. Remember though that this medication can make you sleepy, so take it only at night before you go to bed. A decongestant or a nasal spray can help with a blocked nose.

If you have a persistent cough that lasts more than two weeks, visit your GP. In serious cases of flu, your doctor may also suggest a prescription antiviral.

Other ways to treat the flu or a cold

Home remedies and alternative treatments can go a long way toward making you feel better. An increased amount of vitamin C can reduce your symptoms if taken as soon as you start to feel sick.

When you're feeling under the weather, you may not feel like eating. However it's important not to skip drinking plenty of fluids. Water, juice, broth and other liquids will prevent dehydration and provide essential nutrients.

Chicken soup can help break up congestion, and even increase the flow of nasal mucus, helping to get those germs out of your system quicker than they otherwise would go.

Other home remedies to treat flu

Rest is important when you're recovering from the flu. Plus staying home with a cold or the flu will prevent you passing it on, since both illnesses are contagious. Try taking a hot shower or bath to break up congestion. If your throat is sore, gargle with a glass of warm salt water.

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