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How to treat colds and flu at home

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Alongside the colder weather and darker evenings, the arrival of autumn and winter brings with it colds and the flu. A runny nose, sore throat and cough are often symptoms of both, but they are actually caused by different viruses. Learn more about the differences between a cold and the flu.

Most of us can treat colds and flu at home without seeing a GP by looking after ourselves and sometimes over the counter treatments can help ease the symptoms. In this guide we’ll share top tips on how to treat a cold and flu including natural remedies that may help soothe your symptoms.

Check if you have a common cold or the flu

Colds and the flu are viruses that have similar symptoms however there are some noticeable differences. A cold most commonly presents symptoms like these:

If you have the flu, you will likely have the following symptoms:

  • A fever / high temperature
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Shivering and chills
  • Severe tiredness
  • A headache
  • Dry cough and sore throat
  • Loss of appetite

If you have a high temperature, loss or change to your sense of smell and taste, or a continuous cough, please note that it could be coronavirus. Find out more about coronavirus symptoms and what to do here.

How to treat the flu and the common cold yourself

If you have a cold or the flu, you might have symptoms including a blocked or runny nose, a sore throat, a headache, muscle aches, coughs and sneezing. To treat a cold or flu at home, the NHS recommends you look after yourself using the below tips. In doing so you should start to feel better within 1-2 weeks.

Get plenty of rest and sleep

Battling a cold or the flu can be draining on your body. Resting and sleeping wherever possible will help you to conserve energy to allow your body to concentrate on beating the virus.

Stay hydrated

Drink lots of water, fruit juice or squash throughout the day. This can help to clear congestion and other symptoms.

If you have a sore throat, try to gargle salt water

Salt can act as a natural antiseptic and may help prevent an infection. Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a warm glass of water then gargle and spit it out. You can repeat this as often as you like but please note that this may feel sore or uncomfortable and remember not to swallow the salt water.

Pain relief

You may choose to take paracetamol or ibuprofen to help lower your temperature and treat any aches and pains but please ask your pharmacist and pharmacy team for advice on which would be most suitable for you.

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Getting essential nutrients and vitamins is crucial to having a healthy immune system. You may choose to help boost your dose of vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin C and Zinc by taking supplements or incorporating them into your diet.

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A flu vaccination may help prevent you from catching the flu or if you do get the flu, it is likely that your symptoms will be less severe. Having a vaccination can also lessen the chances of you catching the flu and passing it onto those who are more vulnerable. The flu vaccination is available free of charge on the NHS to certain groups of people. However, if you’re not eligible for the free NHS vaccine, you will still be able to get a private flu jab in at your local LloydsPharmacy.*

*Subject to suitability.

Book your flu jab at LloydsPharmacy

Cold and flu medications

There are medications available to purchase over the counter from your pharmacy which can help to relieve the symptoms of colds and the flu. Here are some medications you may choose to try:

  • LloydsPharmacy flu-max all-in-one chesty cough and cold powder - This is a lemon and menthol flavour drink which may help to provide quick and long-lasting relief from headaches, sinus pain, chesty coughs, sore throats, fever, aches and pains.
  • Day & Night Nurse - These capsules help provide 24-hour relief from common cold and flu symptoms. The daytime capsules work to ease congestion, without causing drowsiness. While the night-time capsules are designed to help you get a better sleep, reduce fever and dry up a runny nose.
  • LloydsPharmacy paracetamol 500mg - Easy to swallow tablets that can help relieve symptoms of colds and flu like fever and aches and pains.
  • LloydsPharmacy ibuprofen 200mg - Easy to swallow capsules that provide effective relief against the symptoms of cold and flu, like aches and pain and fever.

Make sure you’re careful when taking paracetamol and ibuprofen as it’s easy to take more than the recommended dose without realising. Some cold and flu remedies aren’t suitable for children, babies and pregnant women. For more advice, speak to a pharmacist in store.

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Natural remedies for cold and flu

There are many natural remedies that may help to soothe symptoms of a cold or the flu. These include:

  • Eat hot soup. Soup is an excellent meal when you have a cold or the flu. It’s easy to eat and will warm you from the inside, plus added veggies are a bonus. It may also help to loosen mucus.
  • Drink honey and lemon tea. Honey is thought to be a great soother for sore throats whilst lemon is rich in Vitamin C, an important vitamin to help support a good immune system.
  • Massage your sinuses. Try massaging around your nostrils, sides of the nose and temples to ease congestion or a headache.
  • Try a steam inhalation. Breathe in steam from hot water to help loosen mucus. Pour hot water into a bowl and carefully place a towel over your head and the bowl before taking deep breaths.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Our bodies need plenty of energy to beat a cold or the flu so make sure to eat fruit and vegetables and get the vitamins you need.

Find more advice on how to stay healthy during the cold and flu season, including how to boost your immune system, symptoms of pneumonia and sinusitis and sinus pain.