What are ways to relieve cold and flu symptoms?

Here are some ways to relieve cold and flu symptoms:
  • Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to alleviate aching and reduce fever. Gargle with salt water to soothe sore throat pain. The salt and water will shrink the mucous membranes in your throat and decrease the pain from inflammation.
  • Take extra vitamin C, which may shorten the duration of your cold. Vitamin C also may work as a natural decongestant. The best dose appears to be 500 mg taken four times daily. More than 500 mg per each dose is not well absorbed by the body.
  • Apply a small amount of petroleum jelly on your nose if it gets red or sore. The nose often becomes chapped from the alternating wet mucus and irritated tissue.
  • Take a decongestant to relieve stuffiness and nasal congestion.
  • Take cough medicine to relieve a cough.
  • Take an antihistamine, especially at night or if you have allergies. (Note: Antihistamines may cause drowsiness and should not be taken with sedating drugs, antianxiety drugs, or sleep medications. Use caution if driving or operating any machinery while taking an antihistamine.)
  • Use a nasal-decongestant spray for 3 days or less to avoid the rebound effect, which may cause increased congestion later.

Here are some tips to help ease cold or flu symptoms and get better faster:
  • Rest. This is one of the best things you can do for yourself or your sick child. Stay home from work if you can. Keep your child home from school or day care. Even half a day of extra rest helps.
  • Drink lots of water and other fluids. Water thins mucus and helps ease coughs, stuffy noses, and sore throats. Other fluids -- even milk -- are usually okay too. Some kids find that milk thickens mucus and makes them stuffier, but most have no problem.
  • Rinse your sinuses with salt water.
  • Use a humidifier. Use a cool mist humidifier around children. Don't let the room get too moist -- there shouldn't be moisture on the windows. Also, follow the package directions to keep the humidifier clean.
  • Stay away from smoke. Smoke worsens symptoms and slows recovery. Don't let anyone smoke in the house. And if you smoke, try to take a break for a few days or smoke only outside.
  • Use an extra pillow. If a cough or stuffy nose keeps you up at night, use an extra pillow to lift your head a bit.

Continue Learning about Cold and Flu

Best Way to Stay Healthy? Call In Sick
Best Way to Stay Healthy? Call In Sick
Next time you get a sore throat and sniffles, here's how to avoid can't-get-out-of-bed misery later: Stay home. Clocking into your job when you don’t...
Read More
Is the high-dose flu vaccine more effective than the regular flu shot?
Univ. of Nev. School of Medicine, Family MedicineUniv. of Nev. School of Medicine, Family Medicine
The Fluzone High-Dose vaccine, designed specifically for people 65 years and older, contains 4 times...
More Answers
7 Cold and Flu Myths—Debunked
7 Cold and Flu Myths—Debunked7 Cold and Flu Myths—Debunked7 Cold and Flu Myths—Debunked7 Cold and Flu Myths—Debunked
Get the facts on the cold and flu and keep your family healthy this season.
Start Slideshow
Is It a Cold or the Flu?
Is It a Cold or the Flu?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.