What to Do When You Get the Flu

By Dr. Margaret Walsh

Stay in Bed: The most important treatment for a cold or flu is to stay in bed and rest. Take a day or two off of work or school. You will heal faster and be more productive in the long run. Science shows that our immune systems are most active at rest, especially if you lie in bed!

Fluids: It is very important to stay hydrated when sick, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Drink 8 oz of fluids every hour, including water, herbal tea, or broths.

Eat Minimally: The process of digestion requires lots of energy and can be taxing on the body when ill. It is best to eat minimal amounts of light foods, such as vegetable soups and steamed vegetables. When the appetite returns, eat lightly a few days (brown rice, vegetable soups, steamed vegetables, white chicken, and fish). Avoid eating dairy products, as they increase mucous production. Also, don’t eat any sugar or junk food, as they decrease the immune system’s ability to fight infections.

Let the Fever Go: Scientific studies have shown that fevers are a very beneficial response of the body to fight infections. Fevers stimulate immune function and help you recover more quickly from an illness. Avoid the use of medications that bring down a fever, such as Tylenol. The only time when you need to worry about a fever is if it is greater than 1040 F, or if a child is having febrile seizures. In those cases, call your doctor immediately.

Take Immune Supportive Nutrients/Herbs: Elderberry, Echinacea, Osha, Desert Parsley, Garlic, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Zinc, and Selenium are some good examples of nutrients or herbs that help you recover more quickly from colds and flues. It is best to talk to your doctor about the choices that are best for you and the proper dosing.

Hot Foot Bath: This is an excellent treatment for sinus and nasal congestion. DO NOT DO if you have peripheral vascular disease, loss of sensation of the feet, or diabetes mellitus (due to possible diminished sensation in the feet).

  1. Place both feet in a container filled with a little bit of warm water. Gradually add more hot water, until the water temperature is about 110 F.
  2. Remain with your feet in the container for 20-30 minutes. If the water cools down (as it often does), have a caring helper take out some of the cool water and replace it with very warm/hot water. Add the water in-between your spread feet to avoid scalding the feet, or remove your feet from the container while the new water is added.
  3. At the end of the treatment, lift both feet out of the water and pour cold water briefly over feet, drying the feet thoroughly with a towel.
  4. Hopefully, a lot of sweating will occur during the treatment. This is very good. However, make sure that at the end of the treatment, you do not become chilled.
  5. Rest for at least 15 minutes after the treatment.

Call Your Doctor: Don’t hesitate to call your doctor if you have questions, feel very ill, or are not recovering well from a cold or flu. Your doctor can prescribe additional therapies, such as a homeopathic remedy, to reduce symptoms and speed recovery.

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