Cold and flu recovery
Aah-choo! No one enjoys being bedridden with cold or flu, so fight them off quickly with our guide to a speedy recovery.
Ditch the antibiotics: By all means consult your doctor if the cold is associated with another infection, but don't go thinking they can hand out cure-all pills. Colds are viruses and antibiotics don't work on viruses.
Get as much rest as you can: If you only have a cold, and not flu, it's unlikely that you'll get away with cancelling everything and curling up in bed for the week. Even so, the more rest you can afford yourself the quicker your recovery should be. Sleep is your body's downtime, after all, and it uses this opportunity to run system checks and make essential repairs.
Inhale: Breathe in steam, from a hot shower, a bath, or a basin of hot (but not boiling) water. This can ease blocked or stuffy noses and even a sore throat. Adding a few inhalant drops such as menthol crystals or eucalyptus oil can also help, available from your local pharmacist.
Keep your strength up: Eat well, and be sure to drink plenty of fluids. Illness can rob your body of essential nutrients and vitamins; something you can effectively restore with a decent diet.
Make friends with the pharmacist: They can advise you what over-the-counter products are most likely to help make you feel better, and get you on your feet when it really matters.
Natural cold recovery: If you feel the early signs of a cold, start taking echinacea drops or capsules immediately, which helps to dispatch white blood cells to fight the infection. If you're too late for that, make sure you are dosed up with plenty of vitamin C and drink hot water infused with slices of fresh ginger. Garlic has antifungal, antibiotic, antiviral and antibacterial properties that help the immune system to fight infection and it is excellent at boosting the immune system, so consume as much as possible (it's ok to be antisocial when you are ill!).
There are different strengths of flu: The most common is least serious, even if it leaves you feeling like death warmed up. Expect to be floored for three to five days (followed by a few weeks of fatigue). Stronger flu strains tend to break out every few years, so see your GP if your symptoms are particularly acute. Stronger forms of flu can keep you bedridden for around seven days, and make complications more likely.
Ditch the antibiotics: Sorry, but they're ineffective against flu, too, plus they weaken your immune system in the long term and should only be taken as a last resort. By all means consult your doctor if the symptoms are unusually severe or if there appear to be complications (i.e. chest pains, rash, or stiff neck). Just don't go thinking they can hand out cure-all pills for the virus itself.
Get plenty of sleep: Often this is all you'll want to do, and you'd be wise to simply go with it. Just make sure someone's checking in every now and again to make sure you're OK.
Drink plenty of water: An illness such as flu can leave your fluid levels low, so be sure to have a ready supply of water, or a soft drink of your choice, within easy reach. Eat when you can, too.
Pain relief is at hand: Muscular ache and a high temperature can be eased by popping a painkiller such as paracetamol or aspirin (always read the manufacturer's guidelines first). If you're taking flu remedies at the same time, make sure you're not overloading on paracetamol.
Rest up: Flu can leave you feeling exceptionally run down, and it's important not to fight this if you want a swift recovery. So avoid strenuous activity until your strength is back up to speed, because you could find that it floors you.
Natural flu recovery: Follow the same directions for beating colds naturally (above).
See your GP if symptoms persist: Flu that lasts more than a week to ten days deserves some time with your doctor, but don't deny yourself an appointment at any stage if you're concerned for your health.
Flu jabs are available to avoid future doses: These injections tend to be mainly given to older people, or those with severe asthma or weaker immune systems. See your doctor if you're particularly concerned.
To help prevent yourself from catching the flu you can ask your doctor for a vaccination, which will protect you from the different strains of flu for about a year. The vaccination is mainly recommended for the elderly and anyone who lives or works in a nursing home; however, you are also advised to get the vaccine if you suffer from:
- Chronic kidney disease;
- Lowered immunity from specialised treatment;
- Chest complaints.
The best time to get the vaccination is between September and November to prepare for those common winter bugs.
Read the comment policy
Use our free question and answer service and speak to an expert!