Home Remedies for Common Colds and Flu

Common colds are viral infections of the nose and throat. Almost every person will experience the flu and cold at some point in their life. A typical adult gets a cold two to four times every year. Around 15 to 20% also get the flu. Common cold and flu symptoms include a runny nose, nasal congestion, cough, sore throat, sneezing, mild fatigue, body aches, watery eyes, mild headache, and a temperature below 102 degrees.

Whenever you are feeling cold-like symptoms, you want to get rid of them as quickly as possible. It's hard to focus on what you like when your nose is stuffy and runny, your throat is scratchy, and you're sneezing constantly.

Perhaps you've heard from your doctor, family member, or friend that the common cold has no cure. This is true. There are over 200 viruses that can cause the common cold, but rhinoviruses are the most common cause. At this time, there is no antiviral medication that can combat viruses that cause the common cold. In addition, antibiotics won't be able to treat the common cold since they can only treat infections caused by bacteria.

You can relieve symptoms and get back to normal by getting plenty of rest, fluids and using home remedies. Read on for cold and flu remedies you can make at home.

Make an appointment with your doctor if you are still feeling sick after a few weeks. Take medical help immediately if you have trouble breathing, feel faint, or have a rapid heartbeat.

Don't Treat Cold Symptoms Every Time They Appear  

The annoying cold or flu symptoms you're experiencing are part of your body's natural healing process. This is a sign that your immune system is protecting you. In the case of a fever, your body creates a hotter environment than usual to try to kill viruses. In addition, a fever's hot environment encourages germ-killing proteins to circulate more rapidly and effectively. Therefore, if you have a moderate fever for a day or two, you might actually get better faster.

As another productive symptom, coughing clears your airways of thick mucus that can carry bacteria to your lungs and elsewhere in the body. Even a stuffy nose should be treated gently or not at all. When you take Sudafed or another decongestant, your blood vessels in the nose and throat are affected. However, increased blood flow helps warm the infected area and allows secretions to remove germs from your body.

Home Remedies for Common Colds and Flu

Following are a few home remedies that may prevent sickness, alleviate symptoms, and reduce the duration of a cold or flu.

Gargle with Saltwater

Gargling with salt water can aid in the prevention of upper respiratory infections. Additionally, it may reduce the severity of cold symptoms. It may ease congestion in the nose and sore throat.

What's more, saltwater helps loosen mucus and reduce bacteria and allergens in it1. If you want to try this remedy at home, dissolve one teaspoon of salt in one glass of warm water. Gargle with it. After that, spit it out.

Warm Salt Water Soothes Stuffy Noses

A saltwater rinse relieves nasal congestion and removes bacteria and virus particles from the nose. To prepare it, follow these steps:

In a cup of warm water, mix 1/4 tsp of each salt and baking soda. Squirt water into your nose using a bulb syringe or nasal irrigation kit. Squirt the salt mixture into one nostril while holding the other nostril closed with light finger pressure. Allow it to drain. Then repeat on the other nostril.

Frequently Blow Your Nose

It would be best if you blew your nose frequently when you have a cold instead of sniffling mucus back into your head. However, when you blow hard, you can send germ-carrying phlegm back into your ear canals, causing earache. To blow your nose effectively, place one finger over one nostril and gently blow the other nostril.

Remain Warm and Well-Rested

If you are coming down with a cold or the flu, staying warm and resting can help your body use its energy to fight against the illness. Fighting the disease exhausts the body. Give it a hand by resting.

Keep an Extra Pillow Beneath Your Head While You Sleep

You can relieve congested nasal passages by elevating your head. Put pillows between the mattress and the box spring if the angle is too awkward. This will create a more gradual slope.

Consume Hot Liquids

You can soothe nasal and throat inflammation with hot liquids. They prevent dehydration and relieve nasal congestion.  You can take traditional teas and soups. 

Eat Chicken Soup

If you are sick, chicken soup is a good choice, but it isn't a cure-all. Studies have shown that eating a bowl of chicken soup with vegetables, whether homemade or heated up from a can, can slow neutrophil movement in the body. Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell. Neutrophils aid the body in fighting infection. If they move slowly, they'll stay in the areas of your body where healing is most needed. In one study, people suffering from upper respiratory infections found that chicken soup helped relieve their symptoms. Low-sodium soups are also rich in nutrients and help keep you hydrated. No matter how you feel, it's a good choice2.

Consume Honey

Honey contains a number of antibacterial and antimicrobial compounds. Consuming honey in tea with lemon can help relieve sore throats. Studies show that honey can also help reduce coughs. In one study, researchers determined that giving children ten grams of honey at bedtime helped reduce the severity of their cough symptoms. In addition to sleeping more soundly, the children experienced fewer cold-related symptoms3.

Eat Garlic

Garlic is one of the most popular home remedies for colds. Many cultures use garlic to treat the common cold, whether its chicken soup laced with garlic, a drink made from raw crushed garlic, or if it's just eating raw garlic.

Garlic is thought to contain allicin, which is antibacterial and antifungal. Allicin is responsible for garlic's hot taste. It is important to chop or crush fresh garlic so that it retains as much allicin as possible.

Garlic supplements may help alleviate cold symptoms. Some research even indicates that it might help you avoid getting sick. Additionally, the study found that garlic can reduce the recovery time for people who catch a cold4.

Take Ginger

For centuries, ginger root has been touted as healthy food, but now there is scientific evidence to support its benefits. You may be able to relieve a cough or sore throat by soaking a few slices of raw ginger root in boiling water. Several studies suggest that it can also help prevent nausea caused by influenza. In one study, ginger was found to alleviate clinical nausea from a variety of causes with just 1 gram5.

Include Probiotics in Your Diet

A probiotic is a healthy strain of bacteria or yeast found in your body in some foods and supplements. Probiotics can help keep your immune system and gut healthy, and research indicates that they may help prevent upper respiratory infections. Include probiotic yogurt in your diet for a delicious and nutritious source of beneficial bacteria. Yogurt isn't just good for your immune system; it is a healthy snack high in protein and calcium. Look for yogurt with live bacteria on the label6.

Take Echinacea

Over 400 years ago, Native Americans used echinacea root and herb to treat infections. Flavonoids, which are chemical compounds with many therapeutic effects, are among its main ingredients. For example, flavonoids enhance your immunity and reduce inflammation.

In one review, echinacea was found to lower your risk of getting the common cold by more than 50%. It may also shorten the duration of a cold. Try taking 1 to 2 grams of echinacea herb or root as a tea three times daily for no more than a week if you're a healthy adult7.

Take Vitamin C Rich Drinks and Foods

The vitamin C in your body plays a vital role in maintaining your health. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits such as limes, oranges, grapefruits, leafy greens, and other vegetables and fruits. Fresh lemon juice added to hot tea with honey can help to reduce phlegm when you're sick. Alternatively, you can drink warm or cold lemonade.

You may not be able to cure your cold with these drinks completely, but you can help your immune system by getting the vitamin C it needs. Adequate amounts of vitamin C can help treat upper respiratory infections and other illnesses too8.

Use Vapor Rub

Some topical ointments, such as vapor rub, may reduce cold symptoms in children older than two years of age. By using it just a couple of times before you go to sleep, you can open up air passages, reduce coughing, and improve your sleep. The use of vapor rub is increasing among some doctors because of concerns about unwanted side effects of over-the-counter cold medicines9.

Increase Humidity in Your Home

Dry environments are more conducive to influenza growth and spread. You may reduce your risk of getting sick with this virus by increasing the humidity in your home. When you're sick, humidity can also reduce nasal inflammation, which can make breathing easier. Cool mist humidifiers may temporarily make your bedroom more comfortable. Especially in the winter, dry indoor heat can aggravate your symptoms. Additionally, adding eucalyptus oil can stimulate breathing.

You should change the water in humidifiers daily to prevent mold and other fungi from growing. Taking a long shower or relaxing in a steamy bathroom will create the same effect without a humidifier.

Take Warm Baths

Warm sponge baths can sometimes reduce a child's fever. They can also make adults feel better if they have a cold or flu. The addition of Epsom salt and baking soda to water can ease body aches. It may also be soothing to add a few drops of Heal's essential oils, such as tea tree, juniper, rosemary, thyme, orange, lavender, or eucalyptus.

Eat Foods That Fight Infection

When you're fighting a cold or flu, try to eat these foods:

  • Horseradish or mustard may help break down mucus in the airways.
  • The phytochemicals in onions are thought to help the clear body infections such as
  • Teas, such as black and green tea, contain catechin, a phytochemical thought to have
  • antibiotic and diarrheal properties.
  • In addition to lowering diarrhea, blueberries contain natural aspirin, which may help lower fevers and ease aches and pains.
  • Chili peppers help break up lung mucus and open sinuses.
  • Rice and bananas soothe upset stomachs and curb diarrhea.
  • Eat more cranberries to prevent germs from adhering to the cells lining your bladder and urinary tract.

The Right Time to See A Doctor

Symptoms of a cold or flu can last up to two weeks, with the worst ones occurring for about two to three days. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises people to seek medical attention if cold or flu symptoms persist for more than ten days without improvement. A person should consult their doctor if they have any unusual symptoms or if they are very severe.

The Bottom Line

Viral infections cause common colds and flu symptoms, and you can't cure them by taking antibiotics. Many people use home remedies for cold and flu symptoms. There are some home remedies listed above that you can use to relieve cold and flu symptoms. When symptoms do not improve after ten days or if they are unusual or severe, you should see a doctor.