You’re going about your day as usual when all of a sudden, you feel it: You’re getting sick. After Googling cold and flu symptoms to confirm your suspicions, you resign yourself to several days in bed with a box of tissues and chicken noodle soup. But at this point, is a full-blown illness truly inevitable, or is there anything you can do to safeguard your health once your body starts showing signs of impending doom?
Before you surrender to the sickness, remember that being symptomatic, though not exactly fun, is a good thing. Whether you feel that familiar tickle in your throat or are experiencing whole-body, hit-by-a-truck aches and fatigue, it’s likely your system is trying to warn you that it’s fighting off a virus. Luckily, depending on how long you’ve been sick and what you have, it might not be too late to intervene with some at-home remedies. Here are a few things to try when you feel sickness coming on (in tandem with your healthcare provider, of course).
1. Know what you’re dealing with. Though cold and flu can exhibit similar symptoms, they’re quite different. If you’ve got symptoms like a fever, chills, a sore throat, a runny nose, and a cough, you may have seasonal influenza, a viral respiratory illness affecting 5-20 percent of Americans every year. Cold symptoms also include a runny nose and cough but are typically milder and don’t last nearly as long as the flu. If you’re not sure which illness you have, chat with your doctor, who can help you come up with a treatment plan.
2. Try some supplements. Vitamin C is typically touted for protecting our bodies from illness, and for good reason. Though there’s no clinical evidence that taking vitamin C can prevent sickness, medical professionals say that taking at least one gram of the stuff per day can reduce colds by 24 to 36 hours. If you think you feel a cold coming on, you can also try echinacea, which some studies show can both reduce the severity of colds and shorten them by 10 to 30 percent. Every little bit helps, right?
For flu symptoms, some studies show elderberry to be a helpful supplement; according to WebMD, “One study shows that taking four tablespoons a day for three days of a specific formulation of elderberry extract — Sambucol — appears to shorten the symptoms of flu by 56 percent.”
3. Hit the water hard. While staying hydrated can help prevent sickness, there’s also promising evidence that drinking lots of water can help fend off cold and flu. This is because water moistens the body’s first line of defense against viruses — the mucus membranes. Mucus membranes in your nose act like sticky flytraps for germs, so when you’re dehydrated, you’re much more likely to get sick. If you don’t fancy run-of-the-mill water, try herbal tea, clear soup, or even ice chips or ice pops.
4. And while you’re at it, gargle some salt water. Your grandma’s old-school advice to gargle salt water when you have a sore throat is actually legit. While warm water feels comforting on a raw throat, this remedy is more about the salt, which can reduce inflammation, clear mucus and irritants from the back of the throat, and fend off any bacteria or viruses lingering there. Ready to gargle? Try a half-teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water.
5. Stick to healthy foods. It may seem like a no-brainer, but try to incorporate as many healthy foods as possible into your diet when you feel like you’re getting sick — and skip the caffeine and alcohol, both of which have dehydrating effects. While all healthy, whole foods can help fuel your immune system to fight whatever illness you’re getting, certain foods and spices, like garlic, fennel, and lemon, are known for their germ-fighting properties.
6. Rest as much as you can. At the end of the day, resting your bod is one of the most important parts of getting better. If you’re at work or out and about when you feel the sickness hit, it’s a good idea to go home and get as much sleep as possible (plus, you don’t want to share your sickness with anyone). When you’re awake, try to relax with a bath or curl up with a movie.
While home remedies can be helpful in fending off sickness, it’s important to chat with a healthcare professional if you’re feeling sick. Together, you can come up with a game plan for overcoming your illness so you can get back to life as usual.
What do you do when you feel like you’re getting sick? Let us know your tried-and-true remedies @BritandCo!
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