By John Hand –
Coming down with the flu is miserable business. At a minimum, it can bring body aches, fever, sore throat, headaches and coughing. At its worst, it can cause death. Depending on the year between five and 20 percent of Americans will come down with the flu and about 200,000 cases a year will lead to hospitalization. Sadly, WebMd.com reports that anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 people die each year from related complications.
Prevention isn’t guaranteed, but it is wise if not essential to get an annual flu shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among others. There are other natural ways as well to lessen the risk of getting the flu and mitigate its debilitating symptoms. With winter and flu season at hand, embracing these practices is a smart move.
Naturally, the best way to avoid having to deal with flu symptoms is to avoid getting the flu. There are no foolproof prevention practices, but there are lots of ways to reduce the risk of contracting the flu. Start by avoiding crowded areas whenever possible during the heightened flu season. It is also critical to consistently wash or sanitize hands. This will help lessen the risk of picking up any germs from doorknobs, countertops or virtually any surface that might be holding them.
No matter the precautions, sometimes getting the flu can’t be avoided. The aim then shifts to lessen the severity of the symptoms and the duration of the sickness. There are lots of practices that can help, including many that grandmothers have been advocating for decades.
Sleep and hydration are at the top of the list, according to Piedmont Healthcare. Hydration, as in at least 64 ounces of water, juice or herbal teas daily, will help flush the germs out of a person’s system. Rest, in turn, helps immune systems function at maximum efficiency, which is essential to lessen the flu’s impact.
Piedmont also notes that vitamin C supplements may just help lessen the flu’s duration, while also improving a sufferer’s overall heath and immune system. Grandmother’s chicken soup—or anyone else’s for that matter—also has its benefits. It not only helps to hydrate, it can reduce mucus buildup and work as an anti-inflammatory.
It is important to also realize when not to treat flu symptoms, according to WebMd.com. A fever is the body’s way of killing off germs so a person’s ability to deal with a moderate fever for a day or two may actually speed recovery. Coughing, while annoying, shouldn’t always be repressed because it helps clear mucus that can carry germs throughout the body.
WebMD.com’s natural treatment tips for the flu also include blowing the nose often and one nostril at a time. This helps to remove germs from a person’s body without pushing them into the ear canals. Rinsing noses with warm salt water also helps break up congestion and flush out bacteria. Gargling with warm salted water is a good way to ease sore throats. Taking hot steamy showers is a way to moisturize nasal passages, ease aching muscles and help patients relax so they can rest more effectively.
Diet is also important when battling the flu. Zinc intake is critical to building a strong immune system. Supplements are one way to boost intake but so is consuming red meat, shellfish, lentils, chickpeas, beans, nuts, dairy and eggs, Healthline.com reports.
One study cited by the Cleveland Clinic even noted that increasing zinc intake within 24 hours of flu symptoms appearing can cut the duration of the flu by as much as two days.
Many herbal teas and herbs have natural antiviral and antibacterial properties that can help fight the flu. Green or black teas are particularly useful. They can offer an even bigger benefit if they are sweetened with pure honey, which is known to have antiviral and antibacterial elements.
Healthline also reports that several essential oils, including cinnamon, peppermint, eucalyptus, geranium, lemon, thyme and oregano, can provide antiviral and antibacterial support.
There are some no-goes as well when it comes to food and drink while dealing with the flu. Dairy and red meat may help support immune systems prior to getting sick, but they risk making matters worse once someone is ill. Spicy dishes in addition to fried and fatty foods should be off the menu too. Caffeine-heavy drinks and alcohol are off-limits because they will thwart hydration.
Ultimately, there are no guarantees when it comes to the flu. But rest, hydration and a few other good measures can make having the flu much more bearable.