Watch out. It may be a three-letter word but the flu packs a mighty punch. The flu typically hits people like a fast-moving train. Even getting out of bed is taxing.
It's a serious illness whose severity changes from year to year. But it's certain that you should take it seriously. That starts with knowing what to do when you feel the first signs of the flu. How you take care of yourself when flu symptoms start can make a difference in how long the symptoms of the virus last. First signs include feeling feverish; chills; cough; fever; sore or scratchy throat; stuffy or runny nose; fatigue; headaches; body or muscle aches; and vomiting or diarrhea (more often in children).
And remember—the best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated. Yes, you may still get the flu, but it does decrease your chances of doing so and the severity of your symptoms. And it's never too late to get the shot.
Here are some measures you can take at the first signs of the flu.
Pass on caffeinated beverages
You may be tempted to have an Irish coffee or hot toddy to soothe your ailments. But coffee, tea and alcohol are dehydrating, which can make your symptoms feel worse and make you sicker longer. Instead, drink water. It will keep you hydrated and help loosen mucus. You can also turn to ginger ale, diluted juice, sports drinks, broth or decaf tea.
Avoid spreading the virus
You're contagious a day or two before your symptoms begin and stay contagious for up to five to seven days after you started feeling sick. That means stay home from work or school. Avoid physical contact with others via hugs or handshaking. Don't share food or drinks. Wash your hands. Or at the very last use hand sanitizer. (And place some around your house so family and guests can disinfect themselves). Cough and sneeze into your arm or a tissue.
Yes, you have an excuse to skip the gym. Avoid overexerting yourself by stopping exercise. Maintaining your regular workout routine will dehydrate you and worsen your symptoms.
Get more sleep and rest
Slumber helps reduce the effects of the flu, which will help you recover faster. When you're not sleeping, remember that you're contagious and sick. Empty that DVR or binge watch something on Netflix. Grab that book you've been wanting to finish. Your body needs time to battle this virus.
Run the humidifier
A mist humidifier or vaporizer can moisten your house if it's dry, which can help with congestion and coughs. Avoid using a warm mist; that can promote bacteria and mold growth.
Treat aches and pains
If you have a fever, your body is turning up the heat to fight the flu virus. Treat your pains with over-the-counter meds like acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen. (Your doctor can tell you which one is right for you.)
Sit in a steamy bathroom
If you're suffering from a stuffy nose, sit in the bathroom with the door closed. Let the shower run hot until the room fills with steam. Sit away from the water to avoid burns.