How to Feel Better When You Have the Flu
Ever hear the old wives’ tale that you should ‘feed a cold, starve a fever’? Yeah, don’t do that.
Headache, fever, cough, sore throat, congestion, aches, and pains. There’s no way around it, the flu is miserable. And while there’s still no cure for the virus, that doesn’t mean you’re helpless against it.
Your best defense, of course, is to avoid getting infected in the first place, so make sure you get vaccinated and wash your hands frequently, especially if you’re around someone who’s sick.
If you do fall ill, symptoms usually last for three to five days. Once the virus gets inside the body, it replicates and causes inflammation in the cells that line the respiratory tract, including inside the nose, upper airways, windpipe, and lungs. If the virus and the inflammation persist, bacteria that normally live in the throat get down into the chest and lungs, where they can cause major complications. Most people who die from the flu do so because they contract a bacterial infection like pneumonia on top of the virus, so limiting the inflammation and duration of the disease is a top priority.
What can you do to help your immune system fight the virus faster and feel a little less terrible? Drugs? Whiskey? Grandma’s chicken soup? Read on.
The big guns: prescription antivirals
Your best weapon against the flu is antiviral drugs, which specifically target viruses. There are four different antivirals currently approved for use against influenza: Tamiflu (oseltamivir), Relenza (zanamivir), Rapivab (peramivir), and Xofluza (baloxavir). These drugs interfere with the virus’s ability to replicate, stopping it from spreading from cell to cell and giving the immune system a better chance to fight it off. The added defense helps to quicken recovery, but only if you take the antivirals within the first two days of falling ill. After that, the virus has spread too much for the drugs to make a difference.