Best natural remedies for the cold, cough, and flu

The old adage “you are what you eat” is absolutely true.

Good nutrition is essential to staying healthy and maintaining a strong immune system. Your body needs certain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to fight off germs and to function properly.

In this article we cover a variety of home remedies, including flu treatment for adults, and tips for treating children with cold symptoms. We also provide a timeline of the common cold and the flu that can help you treat your symptoms at home.

How to cure flu fast without medicine 

Some people will tell you these methods will get rid of flu in 24 hours, but flus and colds typically last up to 10 days. Do the following to minimize symptoms and feel better sooner:

Clear stuffy sinuses with steam

Fill your kitchen sink with hot, steamy water. Slowly lean over the steam with a towel draped over your head.

Add the following to the water to enhance the nasal-cleansing effects: a few drops of eucalyptus oil, 2 tablespoons chopped ginger, or a teaspoon of menthol ointment.

Stay hydrated by drinking 64 ounces (8 cups) of liquid each day

Drinking lots of liquids will keep you hydrated and help thin the mucus that builds up in your sinuses during colds. Drinking lots of fluids can also help with body aches and fever.

Hot drinks typically work better than cold drinks, but avoid alcohol and caffeine.

Ease scratchy throat with hot soup

If you find that it’s hard to swallow without pain, try sipping hot chicken soup. Add garlic, curry powder, and pepper to thin out the mucus in your throat, mouth, and lungs. This method can also increase the number of white blood cells in your immune system.

Get your rest

Stop working or doing chores as soon as you start to feel symptoms. This one can be difficult, but it is essential to rest during the first stages of the cold in order to reduce the longevity of your symptoms.

Home remedies for kids

Over-the-counter products should not be your first choice when it comes to treating young children. If you choose to use these products, always read the labels to make sure the medication is appropriate for your child’s age.

Colds and flu can be harder to deal with when it comes to children. They are more likely to be grumpy and resist your efforts to help them heal.

One of the most important things you can do for a sick kid is to keep him home from school for at least one day. Encourage him to sleep and to stay warm, and make sure he is drinking plenty of liquids, like water and juice.

Keeping your kid home from school during the beginning stages of a cold will not only reduce the cold’s longevity, but will also keep other kids from getting sick.

Think about putting a humidifier in your child’s room to keep the air moist at night. The moisture in the air will help break up congestion in the chest and nasal passages.

Note: We do not recommend using honey as a sore throat remedy for children, because it can contain bacterial botulinum.

Give your doctor a call if your child has:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Earache
  • A fever that lasts more than 72 hours
  • Persistent coughing
  • Throwing up
  • Swelling of tonsils or sinuses

Foods that fight colds & boost immunity

Most home remedies for cold, flu, and fever involve eating the right foods. Below is a list of foods you should include in your diet whether or not you’re feeling sick.

Raw garlic: contains a sulfuric compound called “allicin” that helps boost your immune system.

Chicken soup: the heat from the soup loosens nasal congestion and the high salt content helps ease a sore throat.

Honey: acts as a cough suppressant.

Tuna, salmon, and mackerel: contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce internal inflammation; inflammation can prevent your immune system from functioning properly.

Oysters: contain high amounts of zinc, which has shown to shorten the duration of colds.

Anise seeds: have natural antibacterial properties that can clear congestion and ease coughing. The best way to consume anise: add ground seeds to 1 cup hot water; add cinnamon, garlic, sugar, or honey for flavor.

Citrus fruits & red peppers: these foods contain lots of vitamin C. Vitamin C is not as effective as once believed, but consuming it when you first start to experience symptoms has been shown to reduce the longevity of a cold by 1 day.

Fennel seeds: a natural expectorant that can help clear congestion and can help soothe cough. Like anise, fennel is most effective when consumed in tea form.

Kefir and yogurt: contains healthy bacteria that can aid in digestive health and help prevent stomach problems.

Carrots and sweet potatoes: orange fruits and veggies like sweet potatoes and carrots are high in beta-carotene. Our bodies convert beta-carotene into vitamin A, which plays an important role in immune system health.

Sunflower seeds: this crunchy, addictive snack is great for colds because it contains lots of vitamin E, an antioxidant that can help protect cell walls from damage. Make sure to choose dry-roasted sunflower seeds over seeds roasted in oil.

Here are a few “home remedies” that don’t work:

  • Drinking caffeine
  • Putting onion in your socks
  • Fasting during a fever

Note: Avoid sugars and carbs until you’re feeling better.

Stages and recovery period for cold, cough, and flu

Stages of the flu

A “cold” and a “flu” are not the same thing, but they are both caused by viruses and neither require antibiotics to cure. Symptoms include: cough, runny nose, fatigue, and congestion. If your symptoms include a fever and body aches, you probably have the flu. Symptoms typically last 7-10 days.

Flu cycle:

  • Day 1: the flu virus enters the body through the nose or mouth.
  • Days 2-4: the virus settles into the lungs and starts to grow. At this stage, you will have no symptoms but you are contagious.
  • Day 5: symptoms begin to appear. If you want to beat the cycle with prescription drugs, you must get them within 48 hours of your first symptoms.
  • Days 6-9: you feel sick as your body fights off the virus.
  • Days 10-14: your body produces the antibodies it needs to fight and kill the virus.

Common cold cycle:

There are hundreds of difference viruses that can cause what we call the ‘common cold.’

  • Days 1-2: you experience symptoms like sneezing, fatigue, and sore throat.
  • Days 3-5: you start to experience a cough and nasal symptoms.
  • Days 6-7: symptoms start to ease.

Note: It’s important to seek medical help if your symptoms do not improve after 7 days, or if you experience unusual or severe symptoms.

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