A cup of tea with honey, lemon and fresh ginger, a great drink to help get rid of cold or flu symptoms fast.
A young Black woman sits curled up on a sofa with a blanket wrapped around her, possibly suffering from cold or flu symptoms.

How to help get rid of a cold or the flu, fast

The common cold and the flu are two different kinds of respiratory illness that develop after you come into contact with certain viruses. But although a cold and the flu can sometimes present similarly (i.e. with similar symptoms), they are actually different illnesses caused by different viruses.i

A cold may be caused by any one of about 200 different virus strains, though the rhinovirus is often to blame (causing more than two-thirds of all colds)ii. In contrast, only three types of virus can cause the flu in humans: influenza A, influenza B and influenza C.iii

Regardless of whether you have a cold or the flu, or which type of virus has caused your illness, you probably know firsthand that it’s not going to be a pleasant experience. Keep reading for Otrivin’s guide to cold and flu prevention and treatment, so you can learn how to help protect yourself from these seasonal illnesses, plus how to help speed up the healing process if you do become unwell.

Cold & flu symptoms

As mentioned, a cold and the flu can present with similar symptoms, including:

· a cough,

· a sore throat,

· changes to your sense of smell. 

However, both illnesses also have their own telltale symptoms that either rarely or never occur with the other (for example, fever is common with a flu but not with a cold).i

How to prevent colds and the flu

The best way to protect yourself from the flu is by getting your annual flu shot. Even if you aren’t at high risk for flu complications, getting vaccinated every year may still be a good idea, as it can make you less likely to spread the virus and therefore help you protect those close to you.iv

Unfortunately, there’s no vaccine available for the common cold. However, you can help defend against respiratory illnesses in general with good hygiene practices, such as:

· staying away from people who are unwell, 

· washing your hands frequently with soap and water, 

· using alcohol-based hand sanitizer in situations where washing your hands is not possible, 

· avoiding touching your face (especially your eyes, nose or mouth).

You can also help to support your immune system by:

· catching plenty of z’s every night, 

· moving your body regularly, 

· keeping on top of your stress levels, 

· staying hydrated,

· eating a balanced diet.vi

How to treat a cold or the flu

OK, so you’ve come down with a cold or the flu despite your best efforts to stay well – now what? If you’ve been frantically googling, “how to get rid of a cold fast” or “how to cure a cold or the flu”, we’ve got both good and bad news for you.

While there is a flu vaccine, it’s preventative rather than curative. Technically, there’s no actual cure for either a cold or the flu. Unfortunately, once you’ve caught one or the other, you have to ride it out. Having said that, it’s not all bad news. There’s plenty you can do to feel a bit better while you wait it out, and maybe even recover a little quicker, too.

Strategies to support your body while it’s fighting off whatever virus has caused a cold or the flu include:

· getting lots of rest, 

· drinking plenty of fluids, 

· staying warm, 

· avoiding cigarette smoke, 

· eating well.

There are also over-the-counter treatments and remedies that may help ease your cold symptoms. These include:

· saline nasal sprays  (for children and adults) or medicated nasal decongestants (for adults only) for a blocked or runny nose, 

· lozenges for a sore throat,vi

With any luck, these tips and tricks should make your cold or flu experience a little less unpleasant. Most cold symptoms can clear up in 4-5 days, while flu symptoms can take up to 10-14 days to clear up.   You should see your healthcare provider if your symptoms get worse or do not clear up within 2 weeks. We hope you feel better soon!


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