“’Tis healthy to be sick sometimes.” –Henry David Thoreau
A couple of weeks ago, I got hit with the flu.
It was awful. I rarely get sick, maybe once a year max. I don’t really watch the news, but I’d heard from others who do (mainly my parents) that this winter is one of the worst flu seasons on record. That people were being hospitalized and even young people who normally fare better than average against the flu were dying. This time when I got sick, for the first time in my life, I did a bit of research on how to get over the flu fast. First of all, I knew it was the flu and not a cold because I had flu-like symptoms such as chills and body aches which are more severe than symptoms of the common cold. But I was able to go from this back to 100% in less than three days. How did I do it? As I mentioned, I read up on what actually works. Most of the things people tend to hear about do help a little, but there are only a couple of things that actually have a significant impact on the duration of a cold or the flu. These two things are rest and hydration.
Stay at home and do nothing.
I know this may sound like common sense, but it is the number one reason why the average cold lasts seven to ten days instead of two to three. People try to “tough it out” and go on with their daily lives. You cannot do this if you want to recover quickly. Your body can’t carry out normal daily activities and recover at the same time. If you try to do both, you will end up doing a crappy job of both. Instead, just focus on getting better. In other words, do nothing except rest and sleep. The more you sleep, the better. Don’t exercise. Don’t go out with your friends. Cancel all your plans. If you can, stay home from work. If you can’t take time off, try taking half-days or leaving a couple hours early. Most bosses should be understanding and not make a big deal out of it. When I got sick, I left work early and went home and did nothing for three days. Then, I was better. I remember the days when I used to go out drinking with a sore throat. Terrible idea. Stay home and do nothing. This is by far the most important thing you can do and the thing that people screw up the most often.
This is the second most important thing. While you are at home doing nothing, make sure you are constantly drinking water. You should aim to drink at least twice the amount you normally drink. Keep a gallon of room temperature water next to your bed and sip on it until it’s gone. Then refill it. If you’re doing it right, you should be peeing at least once every hour. Besides rest, this is really the only other thing that will get you better quickly. Most people don’t drink enough water as it is, but if you don’t while you’re sick, then you’re almost sure to be in bad shape for longer. Water flushes out toxins, helps your body repel contaminants, and replaces fluids lost through the cold battle. I found that adding lemon juice to water helps with a sore throat because of the antibacterial properties of the lemon. Your appetite will naturally be smaller, but make sure you eat and when you do, eat nutrient-dense foods with high water content. This way, you are hydrating yourself with your diet as well. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Avoid junk food and cold foods, especially dairy because it generates mucus. Sorry, ice-cream lovers, but this is probably the worst food you can eat when you are sick. Drink warm liquids. The saying that chicken soup is good for colds is actually quite accurate. Chicken contains an amino acid called cysteine which helps thin out mucus.
What about cold medicine?
In general, OTC medication will just help ease the pain of a cold or flu. It won’t actually impact the duration. One exception is a homeopathic medicine called Oscillococcinum. This is proven to lessen the duration and severity of the flu if you take it at the first sign of symptoms. In other words, as soon as your throat starts feeling a little sore (this is normally the first sign), take it. I didn’t try it this time around because I didn’t have any on-hand and it was too late by the time I got ahold of it, but my parents swear it works. Shop around because it’s a lot cheaper at some places than others. I got it at Target for about $10. Some other tips are to take OTC cold medicine that helps you sleep. Since these medications don’t actually do anything to lessen the duration of a cold (they just temporarily relieve symptoms), but sleep does, take stuff that knocks you out. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. For me, I’ve found that Ibuprofen actually works best to help me sleep. While I was awake, I drank two to three cups of tea with lemon juice and honey per day and that helped ease my symptoms also. If you have a sore throat, gargle with warm salt water regularly.
So now you are armed with the knowledge on how to beat the flu quickly.
The rest is up to you. When the flu hits, your recovery time will come down to how well you can make decisions. Again, it all seems like common sense, but most people still don’t do what they need to do. If all you do is stay home, rest, sleep, drink water, and nourish yourself, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be better in two to three days or less. If you do the opposite: go out, do stuff, don’t drink enough water, and make poor food choices, then symptoms may persist for up to five times longer. The “average cold” lasts seven to ten days because the average person doesn’t do what’s necessary to get better quickly. Of course, it helps if you are healthy and fit to begin with. These people generally have better functioning immune systems (and all other systems too). So next time you get a cold or the flu, try these suggestions and don’t let it go on any longer than it needs to. If you have any other tips you have on how to get over the flu fast, please comment below!