Medically reviewed by Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Flu treatment

Besides taking medication, you can do the following to try and improve your symptoms and shorten the duration of the flu:

  • Get lots of rest: When you’re sick, your body works overtime to fight off the infection. The flu can be very draining. Although you’ll likely feel tired already, it’s a good idea to get more sleep than normal in order to give your body time to recover.
  • Stay hydrated: It’s important to drink plenty of water when you are fighting any infection. Staying hydrated helps your body fight off the infection. Dehydration, especially when sick, can be dangerous. Avoid alcohol, coffee, and caffeinated sodas, as these can all worsen dehydration.
  • Combat congestion: Over-the-counter nasal sprays can help relieve congestion. In infants, it’s recommended that several saline drops are put into nostrils, followed by gentle suction with a bulb syringe to remove mucus.
  • Soothe a sore throat: Aside from throat drops and sprays and over-the-counter pain relievers, a saltwater gargle can temporarily alleviate a sore throat. Dissolve ¼ to ½ teaspoon of sea salt in 8 ounces of warm water, and gargle for 30 seconds to a minute. Children under 6 years of age are not likely to be able to gargle properly. Hot beverages and ice chips can also provide temporary relief from throat pain.
  • Sip warm liquids: a commonly used home remedy for the flu is chicken soup. This is likely because warm liquids, including tea, can soothe sore throats and loosen a stuffy nose by increasing the flow of mucus.
  • Add moisture to your environment: a humidifier can help remedy dry air that may cause irritation to the nose and throat. You can also run a hot shower without ventilation and breathe in the steam to provide some relief for congestion or lungs irritated by a dry cough.

May be prescribed

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Over-the-Counter Painkillers

The following can be taken to alleviate discomfort associated with the flu:

  • NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs): used to treat pain and fever. Includes ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve).
  • Acetaminophen: a pain reliever and fever reducer (Tylenol).

How to prevent the flu

Because people with the flu can be contagious even before developing symptoms, it can be tough to prevent the spread of the flu. However, there are steps you can take to prevent catching the flu, especially when the infection is at its peak.

Here are some helpful tips to avoid catching the flu (and prevent the spread of infection if you do catch it):

  • Wash your hands: Washing your hands frequently with warm, soapy water is one of the best ways to prevent many common illnesses. Generally, you should wash your hands after coughing or sneezing and before eating or preparing food. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Practice respiratory etiquette: Cover your nose and mouth with your elbow (not your hand) when coughing or sneezing. Always use a tissue when possible.
  • Avoid crowded places: Densely crowded areas such as schools, workplaces, and public transportation can harbor flu viruses.
  • Avoid close contact: do not hug, kiss, or shake hands with others when either of you are sick.
  • Stay at home when you are sick, and keep children out of school, daycare, or other group activities if they have the flu.
  • Disinfect surfaces: Disinfect kitchen and bathroom surfaces and frequently used objects (such as toys and doorknobs), especially when you or your family members are sick.
  • Don’t share drinking glasses, utensils, or food with people close to you when either of you are sick.
  • Take care of yourself: Eating well, sleeping sufficiently, and getting exercise may help keep you from catching the flu.

Disclaimer: The information on this site is generalized and is not medical advice. It is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard seeking advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our site. RxSaver makes no warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information.

If you are in crisis or you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.