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Treating Colds and Flu at Home


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Every year, millions of people catch a cold or the flu. With the rapid spread of these viruses from October to March, knowing different ways to treat a cold or flu at home is essential to ensure you return to your usual self quickly. From various medications to natural at-home remedies, we have listed our top tips for getting rid of your cold and flu symptoms as soon as possible.

  • What is a Cold?
  • What is the Flu?
  • What is the Difference Between a Cold and the Flu?
  • Treatments for Colds and Flu
  • Natural Remedies
  • When to Visit a GP
  • Protect Yourself This Winter With Home Health


What is a Cold?

A cold is a virus that is easily spread between people through germs from coughs and sneezes. Common symptoms of a cold include:

  • Blocked or runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Coughs
  • Sneezes
  • Heightened temperature
  • Pressure in ears or face
  • Loss of taste or smell


What is the Flu?

The flu differs from a cold as the symptoms are slightly different and generally more serious than a cold. Typical flu symptoms are:

  • High temperature
  • Aching body
  • Feeling tired or exhausted
  • A dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Diarrhoea or stomach pains
  • Feeling/being sick


What is the Difference Between a Cold and the Flu?

The main differences between these two illnesses are the time it takes for symptoms to occur, the affected areas of your body, and how each virus makes you feel. For a cold, you may gradually feel unwell, whereas symptoms of the flu appear suddenly within a short period, such as a few hours. A cold specifically targets your nose and throat, but the flu can cause these symptoms, as well as aching muscles and stomach issues. Finally, a cold can make you tired, but the flu can cause exhaustion, and you may need to rest for a significant amount of time.

These differences can help you identify whether you have a cold or the flu. However, the treatments for both of these illnesses are very similar.


Treatments for Colds and Flu

If you have a cold or the flu and are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should seek treatments to help ease your symptoms. By following these treatments, you will start feeling like your old self within 1-2 weeks.

Rest and Sleep

It is important to give yourself time to rest when feeling unwell. Particularly if you have the flu, taking time to rest and sleep will allow your immune system to focus all its energy on fighting off the virus.  Additionally, keeping warm can reduce the time it takes you to get better.

Stay Hydrated

One of the most effective ways to reduce your sick time is to drink plenty of water. By staying hydrated, you can replenish the moisture in your body and flush out any germs left by the virus. Drinking warm liquids is also recommended, as this can help clear up congestion and eliminate mucus.

Cold and Flu Medications

There are a number of different cold and flu medications that can rapidly reduce the effects of cold and flu symptoms on your body. For example, paracetamol reduces pain from headaches and body aches. Additionally, co-codamol or ibuprofen are also helpful when dealing with fevers and other cold and flu symptoms.

Specific cold and flu medicines are also effective in dealing with symptoms as they contain a mixture of medicines, including paracetamol. You should ensure you are not taking any cold and flu medicines containing paracetamol and paracetamol tablets simultaneously, as you may take more than the recommended dose.


Antibiotics are ineffective against cold and flu as they do not work against viral infections. This is why you will not be prescribed antibiotics; they will not reduce your symptoms or speed up your recovery.

Decongestant Sprays or Tablets

Decongestant sprays and tablets are good for relieving a blocked nose. This will ensure you can breathe easily and help expel any mucus in your nose or chest causing you issues. Typical decongestants come in the form of nasal sprays, but you can also purchase drops or tablets.

A Balanced Diet and Vitamins

Ensuring you have a good level of vitamins in your system will reduce the recovery time. You can maintain a healthy immune system by ensuring you have a balanced diet when you are sick. You can take supplements to increase the amount of specific vitamins in your system. For example, vitamin C tablets can help keep your cells healthy, reducing the severity of cold and flu symptoms.

Lozenges for a Sore Throat

A quick method of reducing the strain on your sore throat is to try lozenges. Also known as cough drops, these tablets are typically medicated to stop coughs and soothe a sore throat temporarily.


Natural Remedies

Generally, the abovementioned treatments can treat a cold or the flu at home. However, there are some non-medicated ways of treating these illnesses as well. For example:

  • Drinking warm fluids: The most common drink people like to have when they have cold or flu symptoms is honey and lemon mixed with warm water. This is because warm beverages can help loosen your chest and sinuses and hydrate your body simultaneously.
  • Gargle salt water: Salt water is an old remedy for sore throats that can be effective. Mixing a teaspoon of salt with some warm water and gargling it will soothe your sore throat and even help prevent you from catching the illness again.
  • Blowing your nose: Frequently blowing your nose will remove any mucus from your nose. This will, in turn, remove germs from your system as well.
  • Steam: You may have previously noticed you feel better after a warm shower after a cold. This is because the steam from the shower can ease the pressure from your sore throat and help reduce congestion in your body.


When to Visit a GP

Generally, cold or flu symptoms should go away within 1-2 weeks. However, if you have tried these treatments, but your symptoms linger for more than 3 weeks, you should visit your GP. Other reasons to see your GP are:

  • If you have a temperature of more than 39°c
  • You experience sharp chest pains
  • You have difficulty breathing
  • You have swollen glands in your neck or armpits
  • You have severe earache


Protect Yourself This Winter With Home Health

It is common to catch a cold or the flu during winter, so it is crucial to protect your health during this period. Home Health offers a range of products to help you get through the winter. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, we have anything from paracetamol to ibuprofen to ease your symptoms. We also have a number of guides to different illnesses to ensure you have all the information you need to get back to your healthy self. You can find our guide to Influenza here. Take care of your health this winter with Home Health.


Treatments for Cold and Flu FAQs

What is the best treatment for cold or flu?

The best treatments for cold or flu are to get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, use decongestant tablets and nasal sprays if needed, and take cold and flu medications to help reduce the impact of your symptoms. By following these tips, you will feel better within one to two weeks.

Is paracetamol good for a cold?

Paracetamol is one of the recommended medications for treating a cold. This is because it can help ease cold-related symptoms such as headaches. Paracetamol is also good for treating the flu as it can relieve body aches and earaches.

How long does a common cold last?

The common cold typically lasts 1-2 weeks, depending on your symptoms. You may experience a blocked or runny nose, sore throat, or headache if you have a cold. These symptoms should go away by themselves, but you can also reduce the time you experience these symptoms by taking cold and flu medication, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking the time to rest.


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