If you don't manage to outrun this relentless bug, you can do a few things to ease some of the discomfort and give your body help in fighting back.
Get plenty of rest. Plan on sleeping and otherwise taking it easy for a few days. This shouldn't be hard to do considering fatigue is one of the main symptoms, so you won't feel like doing much other than lounging in bed or on the couch, anyway. Consider it a good excuse to take a needed break from the daily stresses of life. And if you absolutely must continue to work, at least get to bed earlier than usual and try to go into the office a little later in the morning.
Take aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen -- if you must. The flu is often accompanied by a high fever that can range from 102 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit. You can count on a doozy of a headache, too. Lowering the fever will help prevent dehydration and will cut down on the severe, shaking chills associated with fever. On the other hand, since a fever may actually help your body fight the bug, you may want to try to let the fever run its course if it's safe for you to do so. Aspirin and ibuprofen are generally better at easing aches and pains; acetaminophen is most effective at fighting fever. For a list of precautions to take when using over-the-counter analgesics.
Drink, drink, drink. This doesn't mean alcoholic beverages, of course. But drinking plenty of any other nonalcoholic, decaffeinated liquid (caffeine and alcohol both act as diuretics, which actually increase fluid loss) will help keep you hydrated and will also thin mucous secretions. The flu can cause a loss of appetite, but patients often find warm, salty broth agreeable. If you're not eating much, juices are a good choice, too, since they provide nutrients you may be missing.
Humidify your home in winter. Ever wonder why the flu tends to strike in the colder months? Part of the reason is your furnace. Artificial heat lowers humidity, creating an environment that allows the influenza virus to thrive. (Colder outside air also pushes people together in confined indoor spaces, making it easier for the flu bug to spread). Adding some moisture to the air in your home during the winter with a warm- or cool-mist humidifier may not only help prevent the spread of flu, it may also make you feel more comfortable if you do get it.
Suppress a dry cough. For a dry, hacking cough that's keeping you from getting the rest you need, you can reach for over-the-counter relief. When shopping for a cough remedy, look for products that contain dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant.
Encourage a "productive" cough. A cough that brings up mucus, on the other hand, is considered productive and should generally not be suppressed with cough medicines. Drinking fluids will help bring up the mucus of a productive cough and will ease the cough a little as well.
Read on as we give you some great ideas on how to use basic items from your kitchen to prevent and treat influenza.