ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Treatment for Cold and Flu Symptoms

Updated on March 24, 2013
Photo © Redberry Sky 2013
Photo © Redberry Sky 2013

Seasonal Ailments

In most cases, colds and flu are very short-term illnesses lasting a few days or a couple of weeks. For people who have no underlying conditions, there are rarely any complications, and to ensure a return to tip-top health as soon as possible, simple advice is the best - rest for a few days, drink plenty of fluids, take over-the-counter cold and flu medicines, and avoid alcohol.

If the symptoms become very bad, or you have any unusual symptoms, such as a rash or breathing difficulties, you may need to see a doctor.

There are also illnesses that seem like colds and flu - like pertussis (whooping cough) or sinusitis, both of which last much longer and have additional symptoms - and for which you probably will need to seek medical advice. Pertussis starts as a mild cold, and then develops into severe fits of coughing. Sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses that can last for months and which may need to be treated with antibiotics if it is caused by bacterial infection.

If any of your symptoms are severe or unusual, or if they persist after three or four weeks, speak to your doctor, or at the very least seek advice from your local pharmacist.


Prevention and Avoidance of Colds and Flu

Some people catch every bug that's doing the rounds, where the luckier ones seem to get away scot-free! If you are one of the former group, and seem to get a cough, cold, or sniffle every month or two, check that your diet is healthy - are you getting enough iron and vitamin C; are you getting plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables? And check your own lifestyle - are you partying a little too hard, burning the candle at both ends? Try to get a half-hour walk into your day, which will help boost your immune system and keep your circulation healthy. Cut out or cut back a little on unhealthy indulgences - sugary or fatty foods, alcohol and smoking.

Air out stuffy rooms - at home or in the office - by opening a window; wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water; cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough (and move away discreetly from anyone who doesn't!). We know these things so well that we sometimes forget to actually do them - but they really are important to stop the spread of infection, and to avoid the miseries of minor ailments.

Treating Cold and Flu Symptoms

Aches and pains, blocked nose, headaches, sore throat, coughs - all of these can be relieved temporarily by taking cold and flu medications from the pharmacy. But they should only be used for a short time - a few days when your symptoms are at their worst - and there are lots of other things you can do instead that will help. Below are some of the most tried-and-tested methods of managing the most annoying symptoms.

Breathing in Steam - Relieving that 'Stuffed Up' Feeling

Fill a large bowl with hot (but not too hot!) water, and create a 'steam tent' by leaning over the bowl and draping a towel over your head, and then breathe the steam in deeply. If you add a few drops of menthol or eucalyptus to the hot water, it will be more effective and help to calm inflammation and make breathing easier.

Having a hot shower will help in the same way, as the steam will help relieve congestion. A warm bath won't create enough steam to have much of a decongesting effect, but it will help relax aching muscles.

A Little Moderate Exercise

In the first couple of days of a cold or flu, when your muscles are sore and aching, and you perhaps have a raised temperature, exercise should be avoided and you should get plenty of rest - so put your feet up and relax as much as you can.

But when you start to feel the symptoms subside a little, a small amount of exercise may help you recover - a short walk will be enough, just to get your circulation going and make your lungs work a little harder.

Don't overdo it - and don't exercise if you feel any dizziness or pain - but one study showed that people recovering from minor seasonal ailments reported feeling better after some moderate exercise.

Garlic - 'The Stinky Rose' might help you beat those winter chills and summer sniffles.
Garlic - 'The Stinky Rose' might help you beat those winter chills and summer sniffles. | Source

Foods That Might Help You Recover

Some foods have antiviral and antibacterial properties; others give your body the right nutrition to help it heal. None of them are 'magic', but they can help you get better a little more quickly and might help you to ward off minor illnesses in the future.

Garlic - Lots of people swear by it, and it has been shown in research to have antiviral and antibiotic properties, although it is still unclear whether it really can help get rid of or prevent infections. But since it has been used traditionally as a healing food for centuries, adding a few crushed or sliced cloves to a soup, stew or stir-fry may help you feel a little better.

Turmeric - There is a lot of very exciting research around this spice, and although it hasn't been shown to directly affect colds and flu, it has been shown to have a positive effect on health in many other areas, and to reduce inflammation, which is one of the major factors in colds and flu, and which causes some of the most unpleasant symptoms. So, like garlic, add some of this to soups, casseroles or stews. Just to note that turmeric is not absorbed well by the body, but its absorption is increased hugely by the addition of black pepper, so add a sprinkle of that, too.

Spicy Foods - from black pepper to chili, hot spices have been shown to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and clear congestion - and you don't have to eat a burningly hot curry to enjoy the benefits; just adding a little to a meal to make it mildly spicy can help relieve some of those symptoms.

Chicken Soup - an old wives' tale that turned out to be right is that chicken soup can help clear up a cold. Home-made is best, and adding some garlic and spices will add to its healing properties, but if you feel too bad to start cooking, even shop-bought chicken soup or broth might help you get better more quickly.

Fruit and vegetables - vitamin A and vitamin C are necessary for the lungs to funtion well and for the body to heal itself, and fruit and veg contains lots of these nutrients and many more. Add root veggies like carrots, parsnips and sweet potatoes to casseroles, bell peppers to a stir-fry, and make yourself a fruit smoothie for breakfast with blueberries, strawberries, mango and apple juice - and add a spoonful of plain, natural 'live' yoghurt for an extra boost to your immune system.

Rosemary and Thyme - Rosemary boosts your immune system, and thyme has antibacterial effects. They both have quite mild but distinctive flavours, and the dried forms in jars available from many grocery stores are just as delicious and effective as the fresh herbs.


Flu-Be-Gone Stew

This is an easy-to-make stew that cooks in about three quarters of an hour, or a little longer depending on what kind of meat you add.

The Chicken Version - using chicken thighs will make this into a kind of quick home-made chicken soup, which has been shown to clear up seasonal ailments faster.

The Lamb Version - Lamb contains a lot of zinc, which is essential for your immune system, and which has been shown to shorten the duration of colds.

Both versions contain root vegetables, which have lots of the essential vitamins that the body needs to recuperate and heal itself from illnesses, and I add my favourite herbs and spices, and lots of garlic too - if you don't like the flavour of any of these add a little less, or substitute your own favourites.

The proportions here will make enough for two-three large bowls of stew, and once cooked, it can be stored in the fridge, covered, for up to three days.

Rate the Taste

Cast your vote for Flu-Be-Gone Stew


  • 200-300g Diced Lamb
  • OR 4-6 Chicken Thighs, skinned and de-boned
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced
  • 1 medium parsnip, sliced
  • 1 medium sweet potato, chopped
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, crushed or sliced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • black pepper, freshly-ground or pre-ground jar
  • rosemary, fresh or dried
  • thyme, fresh or dried

Cook Time

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 45 min
Ready in: 55 min
Yields: Serves two meals


  1. Place the diced lamb or chicken thighs in a large pan - woks are best but any pan will do. Add the vegetables - peeled, washed and chopped.
  2. Mix the herbs and spices with around 400ml just-boiled water, and pour over the meat and vegetables.
  3. Cover the pan (if you're using a wok with no lid, place the largest pan lid you have over, to retain the liquid as much as possible - I use my large slow-cooker lid).
  4. Simmer on a low heat. If you use chicken thighs it will cook in three-quarters of an hour; diced lamb will take about an hour to an hour and a half - check the meat after an hour.
  5. Throughout cooking, check the liquid level frequently, and add more water as necessary.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      6 years ago

      The pill versions of DayQuil and NyQuil work well when I have a cold. The liquid versions are nasty.

    • Peanutritious profile image

      Tara Carbery 

      6 years ago from Cheshire, UK

      Hi Red, your hubs are always so thorough. Great advice! I always make a really strong onion and garlic soup when i've got a cold. It works wonders and really steams the cold out but I don't get many offers of a snog after eating it!

      I love the stew idea, I will give it a try but without the meat.

      Voted up and shared!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this. We use Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup to combat colds.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I am happy to report we made it through winter without the flu this year. All of us were healthy this winter. I love the stew idea. I hope you are well and I'm happy that you are back.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)