Antiviral drugs can decrease the severity and length of your infection if you take them within the first day or two of symptoms. They’re particularly helpful if you got the flu even though you were vaccinated, because chances are you’re dealing with a different strain from the ones in the vaccine.
Sambucol also fights the flu directly. One well-designed study of 60 patients, all of whom had the flu, found that those who received the supplement were nearly recovered by the third or fourth day of treatment, whereas it took seven to eight days for the people in the placebo group to feel better. Researchers think that compounds called anthocyanins in elderberry may be responsible; they boost the immune system and also seem to prevent the flu virus from sticking to cells.
The other treatments are all about making you more comfortable and relieving aches and pains. The warm bath has an added effect: it causes a slight increase in body temperature, which makes bacteria-killing enzymes more effective, potentially helping to prevent a secondary bacterial infection when your defenses are down.
Other Medicines and Approaches
- Fenugreek. If you’re coughing, take 2 capsules three or four times a day. This herb helps thin mucus and also soothes a dry cough. (Note that it makes your urine smell sweet.)
- Cough suppressants. If you want to use a cough suppressant, choose one that contains dextromethorphan. At night, try Delsym, which lasts for 12 hours.
- Sports creams. For body aches, massage a pain-relief rub or sports cream like Ben-Gay or Tiger Balm onto the achy areas.
- Fluids. Drink lots and lots of fluids, both hot and cold. Avoid caffeinated and overly sweet drinks like sodas and undiluted fruit juices.