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Plus, learn which ones you should avoid.

There’s no cure for the common cold, and getting the flu is never fun. It hurts to swallow, you’re all stuffed up and chances are you’re about to run out of tissues. Again.

The good news is, there are ways to feel better right at home. Learn which cold and flu remedies can help you get relief (and which ones can’t).

Cold and flu remedies 

While these home remedies won’t cure your cold or flu, they’ll help to lessen your symptoms.

Mom always made you chicken soup when you were sick? Well, she was on to something.

“The ingredients in chicken soup have anti-inflammatory properties,” says Grace Guerrier, MD, a primary care doctor at Geisinger. “This can help lessen some of the symptoms you’ll experience if you have a cold or the flu.” 

While chicken soup is hydrating, you should still make sure you’re drinking plenty of water when you’re sick. Drinking water can help your body flush out toxins. Stick to herbal tea, which you can flavor with honey or lemon, broth and 100% juice to help you feel better and keep you hydrated.

Sleep and rest are great ways to let your body focus its energy on healing. “If you’re trying to push through without resting, you’re not giving your body a chance to get better, and you could draw out your symptoms,” says Dr. Guerrier.

And, if you have stuffed sinuses, reach for the vapor rub. It’s a great tool for opening up your sinuses, which can improve sleep and reduce coughing.

Remedies for a sore throat

If you have a sore throat, plenty of home remedies can help. 

Tea with honey is a great way to combat a sore throat. “Honey has antiviral properties, which really come in handy when you have a virus,” says Dr. Guerrier.

You can also use warm water with salt to relieve a sore throat. Dissolve up to one teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water, then gargle.

A humidifier, or even a hot bath or steamy shower, can help open up your sinuses and keep the air moist, which will relieve your sore throat. You can even use a minty shower steamer or a few drops of peppermint essential oil for a boost in relief.

Just like for cold and flu, soup, rest and salt water also work as great sore throat remedies.

Cold and flu remedies that don’t work 

While you can do many things to feel better, some things won’t help — or might even make things worse.

For example, antibiotics shouldn’t be used to treat the flu. “The flu is a virus, and antibiotics fight bacteria,” says Dr. Guerrier, “so they won’t help you fight off a flu.” 

Overuse of antibiotics can lead to issues with antibiotic resistant bacteria, making your body less open to the help antibiotics lend when needed.

Also, vitamin C hasn’t been proven to lessen the symptoms of a cold, so taking it while you’re under the weather may not help much. “However, there is some evidence that taking it regularly can help reduce the duration of a cold when you do get sick,” says Dr. Guerrier.

There’s also little evidence that zinc can fight a cold, but it can help support your immune system and metabolism.

Know when to call your doctor

If you notice that you’re not getting better after 10 days with a cold or flu, or if your symptoms are getting worse, it’s time to talk to your doctor. Especially for young children, adults 65 and older, pregnant women or people with certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease.

And if you want to try and avoid getting the flu or have mild symptoms if you do get sick, get your annual flu shot, have plenty of rest and stay on top of your nutrition. 

“Together, all of this will help your immune system fight the flu,” says Dr. Guerrier.

Next steps:

Need to get your flu shot? Learn how.
4 reasons to get your flu shot
Meet Grace Guerrier, MD

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