f you have influenza, you can expect the illness to go away on its own in about 7 to 10 days. In the meantime, you can take steps to feel better:
Get extra rest. Bed rest can help you feel better. It will also help you avoid spreading the virus to others.
Drink plenty of fluids to replace those lost from fever. Fluids also ease a scratchy throat and keep nasal mucus thin. Hot tea with lemon, water, fruit juice, and soup are all good choices.
If fever is uncomfortable, take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to lower it. You may also sponge your body with lukewarm water to reduce fever. Do not use cold water or ice. Lowering the fever will not make your symptoms go away faster, but it may make you more comfortable.
To relieve body aches and headache, take acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Try a decongestant or nasal spray if your main symptom is a stuffy nose. Look for a single-ingredient decongestant that contains phenylephrine. If nasal drainage is thick, a decongestant that contains guaifenesin may help keep it thin and draining. Do not use medicated nasal sprays or drops more often than directed, and don't use them for longer than 3 days.
Breathe moist air from a hot shower or from a sink filled with hot water to help clear a stuffy nose.
Avoid antihistamines. They do not treat flu symptoms and may make nasal drainage thicker.
If the skin around your nose and lips becomes sore from repeated rubbing with tissues, apply a bit of petroleum jelly to the area. Using disposable tissues that contain lotion also may help.
Use cough drops or plain, hard candy to help ease coughing.
Take a nonprescription cough medicine that contains dextromethorphan if you develop a dry, hacking cough. Some products contain a high percentage of alcohol. Use them with caution. Do not give cough and cold medicines to a child younger than 2 unless your child’s doctor has told you to. If your child’s doctor tells you to give a medicine, be sure to follow what he or she tells you to do.
Elevate your head at night with an extra pillow if coughing keeps you awake.
Avoid smoking and breathing secondhand smoke. This is good advice any time, but it is especially important when you have a respiratory infection like a cold or the flu.
Call your doctor if:
Your symptoms improve but then seem to get worse again.
You develop symptoms of a bacterial infection, such as a new or worse cough that produces yellow, green, rust-colored, or bloody mucus; persistent fever, ear pain, sore throat, sinus pain, or productive cough; or nasal drainage that changes from clear to colored after 7 to 10 days.
Author: Sydney Youngerman-Cole, RN, BSN, RNC