Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Flu symptoms can cause a world of misery, from fever and cough to sore throat, nasal congestion, aches, and chills. But there are ways to feel better.

Prescription antiviral drugs may ease symptoms of the flu when taken shortly after you get sick. In many cases, however, simple home remedies may be all you need for relief of mild to moderate flu symptoms.

Here are10 natural remedies for the flu:

1. Drink up. The flu can leave you dehydrated, especially if have vomiting or diarrhea. So be sure to get enough fluids. Water is fine. So are fruit juices, soda, and electrolyte beverages. You may want to stay away from caffeinated drinks, because caffeine is a diuretic. Herbal tea with honey can soothe a sore throat. If you feel nauseated, try taking small sips of liquids -- gulps might cause you to throw up. How can you be sure you’re getting enough fluid? Your urine should be pale yellow, almost colorless.

How about drinking alcohol? No way. “When you have the flu, the last thing you want to do is drink alcohol,” says William Schaffner, MD, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn. “It makes you sleepy, and flu does that already.”

2. Sip some soup. For generations, caring parents have been serving chicken soup to kids with colds and flu. But was mom right? Possibly. A study published in the journal Chest showed that chicken soup may help with symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections like the flu.

“I believe that chicken soup does help with symptoms,” says Reid B. Blackwelder, MD, professor of family medicine at East Tennessee State University in Kingsport. But not all doctors agree that chemistry alone explains the soup’s apparent benefits. “When you lean over a bowl of hot chicken soup and the vapor gets up your nose, you feel better,” Schaffner says. “But some [of the benefit] is clearly emotional. It just makes you feel better having someone make soup for you.”

3. Be a couch potato. Listen to your body. If it’s telling you not to exercise, don’t. If it’s urging you to spend all day in bed, do. Don't press on with daily chores even in the face of severe cold or flu symptoms. Rest is “another way of supporting the body’s ability to fight infection,” Blackwelder says.

And don’t skimp on nighttime sleep. “Good sleep cycles help the immune system work well, so it’s important to get your full eight hours of sleep each night,” Schaffner says.

4. Humidify. Breathing moist air helps ease nasal congestion and sore throat pain. One good strategy is to indulge in a steamy shower several times a day -- or just turn on the shower and sit in the bathroom for a few minutes, inhaling the steam. Another is to use a humidifier. Clean it often to make sure it’s free of mold and mildew.

Fight the Flu With Food

What to eat and why it may make you feel better.
See slideshow