Constant coughing, painful aches and feeling fragile – flu can leave you feeling defeated. While it may put your life on hold for a little while, there are steps you can take to have the best, and quickest, recovery.
How do I know it's flu?
Unlike a common cold, flu symptoms usually come on suddenly and you may feel them throughout your body. Common symptoms include:
- A dry cough
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches
- Weakness and fatigue
- Difficulty sleeping
How to recover from flu quickly – 7 tips
1. Rest up
The most important thing is to get plenty of rest when you’re unwell. Get as much sleep as you can, and when you’re awake, try not to feel guilty for relaxing on the sofa – this will be giving you the energy you need to fight your flu symptoms.
2. Stay at home
It's important to avoid spreading your symptoms to others, especially in the first 24 hours of having flu. There’s a risk you may come into contact with someone more vulnerable than you who’s more likely to experience complications from flu.
If you live with others, you can avoid spreading the flu by:
- Washing your hands regularly
- Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
- Throwing used tissues in the bin as soon as possible
3. Take over-the-counter medication if you need
- Pain relief – you can take ibuprofen to help relieve aches and pains and paracetamol can help reduce fever. If you’re taking cold and flu medication make sure you avoid anything with caffeine at night time as you may struggle to sleep.
- Decongestants – to unblock your nose, for short-term relief only. Don’t take more than the recommended dosage – ask a pharmacist or doctor for guidance if you’re unsure.
4. Drink plenty of fluids
Staying hydrated is key for getting over flu fast. Fever, a common symptom of flu, makes you sweat, which can cause dehydration. Drinking fluids replaces lost liquids and can help fight infection.
If you’re not a big water drinker, low-sugar squash and herbal teas are good options. Just steer clear of alcohol and caffeine, as these can cause dehydration and inflammation.
You can check the colour of your pee to see how hydrated you are – it should be light straw colour yellow and clear.
5. Eat healthy meals
Although it’s tempting to give into cravings when you’re under the weather, your body needs nutritious foods to recover from flu.
Fresh fruits and vegetables have the essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants your immune system needs to fight off the virus, and protein will help give you the strength to get back to normality.
If you don’t feel hungry, eat as much as you can, and rest assured your appetite will come back soon.
6. Stay propped up
Losing sleep because of a blocked nose or cough? You can help ease your breathing by keeping your head raised – treat yourself to an extra comfy pillow or 2 and you should feel some relief in your sinuses.
You may find this is more effective after a hot, steamy bath or shower just before bed.
7. Be kind to yourself
It’s okay to do nothing for a while as your body fights flu. Feeling stressed about missing out on things on socialising, work or exercise can only lead to a negative effect on your body. Remind yourself you need to take the time to recover.
Should I have a flu vaccine?
Flu vaccines are safe and effective at preventing infection. Even if you’re able to recover from flu on your own, it can be dangerous to people with existing health conditions. You can have the flu vaccine at your GP surgery or at a pharmacy that offers the service.
If you’re more vulnerable, you’ll be contacted by the NHS to get your vaccine for free. The best time to get the vaccine is autumn or early winter before flu infections peak, though you can get it at any time.
When should I seek help for flu?
Flu symptoms will often clear up on their own if you take the right measures to recover. But you should think about speaking to a doctor if:
- Your symptoms are getting worse or haven't improved after 7 days
- You're age 65 or over
- You're pregnant
- You have a long-term condition like diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease or a neurological condition
- You have a weakened immune system – for example if you're having chemotherapy or have HIV
- You feel very unwell or develop chest pain, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or start coughing up blood.
This article has been approved by Dr Bryony Henderson, Lead GP at Livi.