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What treatments are there for flu? A summary of conventional, herbal and home remedies
There is no definitive treatment for flu but it is possible to reduce the severity of the symptoms, and take preventative steps to guard against contracting the virus. Here, our immune system expert Dr. Jen Tan guides us through the conventional and herbal remedies available to ease flu symptoms and reduce our chances of catching the infection.
An introduction from to flu treatments
There is not a specific cure for flu, although there are preventative measures which you can employ as well as steps you can take to reduce the severity of symptoms and make you feel better.
Antibiotics have no effect on the flu because they cannot target the flu virus and for this reason, doctors are unwilling to prescribe them unless there is a clear cause such as a chest infection.
In severe cases of the flu, antiviral drugs are sometimes prescribed. These are associated with side effects:
- Oseltamivir is a drug to treat influenza type A and B viruses. It works by preventing the multiplication of flu viruses. These drugs are taken orally in tablet form
- Zanamivir also treats influenza types A and B flu viruses. It comes in powder form which is inhaled via the mouth. It also works by preventing the multiplication of viral cells
Drugs available without prescription
These are also known as over-the-counter medicines. There are many flu remedies available from your pharmacy to treat your symptoms:
- Painkillers and anti-inflammatories such as paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen form the basis of the commonly known cold and flu remedies. These should be taken with care to prevent overdose
- Cough syrups are available for dry, tickly and chesty coughs
- Decongestants are available to help clear a blocked nose or sinuses. Many of these treatments can only be taken short-term in case of side-effects or recurrent symptoms.
Many people look for herbal remedies to treat their flu symptoms. These include:
- Echinacea – this is a popular herb used for treating symptoms of colds and flu. It works by strengthening the immune system, increasing the body’s resistance to infection.
- Echinacea has been shown in research to reduce the severity and number of days of infection if taken while suffering from flu symptoms
- There is a variety of herbal cough syrups such as those which include extracts of fresh spruce for dry or tickly coughs, and others which combine ivy and thyme for chesty coughs.
- Herbal nasal sprays have an advantage over conventional medicine nasal sprays, as the body is less likely to be affected by rebound congestion. Products such as A.Vogel Sinuforce Nasal Spray containing peppermint oil and eucalyptus oil can be used for up to 30 days.
There are a variety of measures to employ at home which will help relieve mild to moderate flu symptoms:
- Drink plenty – water will keep you hydrated and will help make your symptoms feel better. Hot drinks are good for clearing the congestion of a blocked nose and soothing your throat. Alcohol is inadvisable as it can cause dehydration
- Rest – if you can’t face getting out of bed and going to work, then your body may be telling you something. If you get enough rest, this will help your immune system fight the infection. Rushing about when you are sick will do you no favours and will increase your risk of a secondary infection.
- Take a steamy bath or shower – the steam will help clear your nasal passages
- Keep a proper sleep routine – your immune system won’t thank you if you don’t keep to a regular system, and this will make it harder to fight the infection. If you are struggling to sleep at night because of congestion, try keeping your head elevated with pillows.
How Echinacea helps
Echinacea is a traditional herb known to aid the body in its fight against the symptoms of cold and flu. Supplements like Echinaforce help increase the body’s resistance to infection by strengthening the immune system, allowing the body to fight the misery of colds and flu.
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