Our 6 Favorite Cold and Flu Remedies

If you ask 10 different people how to treat a cold or the flu, you will likely get 10 different answers. There are so many options and opinions out there, it is hard to know what to do. 

This list is not the definitive answer for everyone, but after years of caring for sick people, researching what options are out there and trying many of them out myself, these are the things I have found that work best for me. 

Sinus Rinses

Clear your sinuses without medication. NightandDayImages/E+/Getty Images

How you choose to rinse your sinuses is very much personal preference, but it is one of the most effective and simple ways to clear out congestion when you have a cold or the flu. Personally, I prefer the NeilMed Sinus Rinse because it's easy to use. There are plenty of other options out there too.  Find the one that works for you and use it. Rinsing the mucus out of your nose and sinuses when you are congested provides better relief than pretty much any medication. As long as you are using distilled water, it is safe!

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sudafed, decongestant

Decongestants don't work for everyone and some people experience side effects when taking them but if you have significant congestion, they can make a real difference. 

For me, taking a decongestant and expectorant (see below) is key. Together, they thin the mucus and help it drain. When the congestion pressure gets really bad, these two meds are the only thing that will bring relief. 

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Expectorants such as Mucinex can really help with thick congestion. Juanmonino/E+/Getty Images

As stated above, expectorants can make a big difference when you have a lot of mucus. Although they are often billed as cough medications, they work by thinning mucus, making it easier to expel. This works whether the mucus is in your head or chest.  For me at least, the sooner the mucus drains, the better I will feel. 

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Which humidifier is right for you?. GeorgePeters/E+/Getty Images

Humidifiers can bring a lot of relief when you have cold or flu symptoms. Adding humidity to the air when you are sleeping at night keeps your airways moist, decreasing discomfort from the dry, raw nose and throat that we often experience after sleeping when we are sick. The extra moisture keeps you more comfortable and can help you get better sleep when you are sick - which is one of the most important keys to recovering as quickly as possible. 

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Ibuprofen for pain and fever relief. Richar Goerg/E+/Getty Images

Many people think of taking ibuprofen or other pain relievers when they have a fever, headache or back pain but not when they experience the aches and pains that come with being sick. Whether you have body aches from the flu or a sore throat from an irritating cold and cough, taking ibuprofen or other NSAID can make you feel a lot better. 

I prefer NSAIDs such as ibuprofen over Tylenol (acetaminophen) because it reduces inflammation - which is often the cause of the pains that come with a cold. Irritation of your nose and throat comes with excess mucus and ibuprofen can significantly reduce that.

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If you have the flu - actual influenza, not just an illness you think could be the flu - taking Tamiflu within the first 48 hours of the onset of symptoms can make a big difference. It can shorten the duration of your illness and lessen the severity of symptoms. If you are at high risk for complications from the flu, taking Tamiflu to reduce your chances of getting seriously ill is essential. 

Otherwise healthy adults typically don't need Tamiflu or other antivirals when they get the flu but if you are frequently exposed to someone at high risk, you could help protect them by taking it if you get sick. 

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