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Simple Home Remedies for Cold and Flu

4 min read

By Jeff Hayward

Medically Reviewed by Patty Weasler, RN

Sometimes despite your best efforts, you still end up with a mild cold, or a full-blown flu with fever and the chills. While there are countless remedies out there to try and combat these illnesses, there are alternative ways to reduce the symptoms.

Remember, if your fever won’t break or you find the illness is dragging on for longer than usual, then you should consult a doctor – especially if you have breathing difficulties, a rapid heartbeat, or feel faint, reminds Healthline. Here are seven home remedies for colds and flu to try first…

Chow Down on Chicken Soup

This is good on any given day, but especially comforting when you’re feeling under the weather. And it’s more than just the warmth and deliciousness of the soup that makes you feel better – Healthline says there’s some science behind it.

It says research has shown that chicken soup with vegetables can slow the movement of neutrophils in your body, which the source describes as a common type of white blood cell that fights infection. Because the cells are moving slower, they tend to concentrate in “areas of your body that require the most healing,” it adds.

Wear Wet Socks to Bed

This seems like a very strange and counterintuitive way to battle a cold – in fact, having wet socks after coming in from the cold is commonly thought of as a risk factor for getting sick in the first place.

However, Best Health magazine suggests wearing wet socks to bed can ease a fever and clear congestion by attracting blood in the feet, “which dramatically increases blood circulation.” It says the best method is to first warm your feet in warm water, then soak thin, cotton socks in cold water and wring them out. Slip them on (or roll them on, we know how wet socks can be) and then put a dry pair of wool socks over top of the damp ones, it adds.

Breathe in Steam

WebMD says creating a little steam fort can help clear away congestion. First, fill the bathroom or kitchen sink with steamy water, then drape a towel over your head and breathe deep.

The source says you can add elements to the water to possibly make the exercise more effective – including 2-teaspoons of chopped fresh ginger, 1-teaspoon of non-prescription menthol ointment, or a “few drops” of eucalyptus oil.

Drink More

No, not alcohol… just plain water (or another beverage like juice, ginger ale, or herbal tea), suggests Virtual Medical Center. “Drinking plenty of fluids is one of the most important things you can do when you have a cold or flu,” it explains.

The reason is that colds and flu can cause runny noses and sweating (especially if there’s a fever), which can deplete your body’s reserves and put you at risk of dehydration. The source adds that fluid intake will help loosen mucus in your sinuses (to ease congestion) and help your body more effectively fight off infections. If you’re caring for a child that’s older than 1-year, ensure they drink 90 to 120-ml (about 4-fluid ounces) of fluid per hour, it adds.

Try Salt Rinses

WebMD says picking up a saline spray from a store can go a long way to thin out mucus and ease post nasal drip (when excess mucus runs down the back of your throat). As an added bonus, these saline rinses can also clear away some bacterial/viral particles from your nose, it adds.

The source says the rinses are safe for kids and adults. While the instructions most definitely will be on the box, you can spray the rinse into one nostril at a time and gently blow out after each squirt. Repeat until the mucus has disappeared, adds WebMD.

Get Sweet on Honey

Colds and flu can often be accompanied by sore throats and coughs, and honey can apparently reduce both of these symptoms, explains Healthline. The source says honey has “antibacterial and antimicrobial properties,” and that adding it with some lemon in tea can ease your aching throat.

More research suggests honey is an effective cough suppressant too, it adds. The source says researchers gave children 10-grams of honey at bedtime, which reduced the severity of their coughs. “The children reportedly slept more soundly, which also helps reduce cold symptoms,” it adds. Important note: don’t give honey to children younger than 1-year, as their developing immune systems may be vulnerable to botulinum spores sometimes present in honey.

Take a Hot Bath

Who doesn’t like to soak in a hot bath? Well, if you’re sick, this is the perfect opportunity for one. MindBodyGreen details a “detox bath” that apparently can help ward off a cold.

The source says you’ll need 1-cup of Epsom salt, 0.5-cups of baking soda, 4-tablespoons of ground ginger, and some essential oils of your choice (lavender and tea tree oil are examples). “Fill your bathtub with hot water – as hot as you can tolerate it,” says the site. When the tub is half full, dump in your ingredients and stir them in with your hand. Fill the rest and submerge yourself up to your neck. Soak for 20 to 40-minutes, it adds. Don’t shower off the residue for at least 30-minutes after the bath.


Patty is a freelance health writer and nurse (BSN, CCRN). She has worked as a critical care nurse for over 10 years and loves educating people about their health. When she's not working, Patty enjoys any outdoor activity that she can do with her husband and three kids.

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