Since we’re in the middle of our here on the blog, and since I’m in the middle of a cold-turned-sinus infection, I thought it only appropriate to share with you how to build your own Flu-Fighting Kit (or Flu Survival Kit, as the case may be!) to help you ease your symptoms and recover more quickly without resorting to chemically-laden medications and their side effects.
Now let’s just get it straight from the beginning: I am no doctor, neither do I have any particularly extensive knowledge in the area of healing, natural or otherwise. All I have is a decent amount of common sense, an ability to read and understand the advice of others, and my mom’s own tendency – passed down to me – to appeal to home remedies first before pulling out the meds. So take the following suggestions, read up on them and decide for yourself if you think they’re practical or not.
For myself, I only wish I could follow my own guidelines a little better!
No matter how hard you try to eat well and take care of yourself, it will happen on occasion that you do succumb to a cold or the flu. When that happens, you’ll want to have a few supplies and tricks on hand that will make quick work of the beastly virus and get you back to good health as soon as possible. And I’m not talking about a box full of decongestants, pain relievers, and cough syrups.
One thing you will want to remember: natural and home remedies require frequent and regular usage in order to be effective. Many people try a remedy once and declare it doesn’t work, and never try again, but it’s not like taking a Dayquil and forgetting about it for 8 hours. You will need to be consistent about it, repeating 3, 4 and sometimes more in a day, and continuing until symptoms are relieved.
By the way, all of these remedies are safe for children, so this is a whole-family Flu Survival Kit!
Your Flu-Fighting Essentials
Yes, this is definitely something that doesn’t fit in a box in your hall closet. Most people (me included) forge through a cold or flu, feeling like the world depends on them to do their job and if they don’t do it, nobody will, and the world will fall apart. Let me tell you, friend: I have learned from experience that the only thing that falls apart is you. So take a day off work, or pack the kids off to Grandma’s house, and sleep. Sleep until you wake up, because sleep is where the body will do a great deal of healing.
While you’re sleeping, set the humidifier to humming. The steam will do wonders for your congestion. In fact,whether or not you’re sick, run a humidifier throughout the winter to keep your nasal passages appropriately moist. During the winter, the colder air and the dry heat we use in our homes combine to do terrible things to our skin and nasal passages; so offset that by using the humidifier. If your nose is too dry, it won’t be able to adequately do its job in fending off the nasty bugs that circulate in the air all winter long.
We have tried a variety of different humidifiers, some of them cheap ($1 at a flea market!), some of them not-so-cheap ($80-90). In the end, the one we’ve found to be the most reliable is the Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier (middle-of-the-road price, $35 at Amazon). No matter which humidifier you choose, you will have to be consistent about its upkeep or it will stop working eventually. That means daily wipe-downs, weekly rinses, and monthly or seasonal overhauls. A lot of work, but totally worth it (especially if your sweet DH does it for you)!
You know what they say: rest, and plenty of fluids. Well, not just any fluids: water is the foremost fluid you should be drinking when sick with a cold or the flu. So guzzle it on down!
4. Hot Tea
Along with the water, the other liquid you should be consuming in large amounts is hot tea. Green tea especially is known for its healing properties, but any tea will do. Traditional Medicinals is a great brand (find them at VitaCost ) that offers a whole line of ColdCare and ThroatCoat. And hot is better than iced, because the hot liquid will soothe your throat and help dislodge some of the congestion (much like the steam in a humidifier). Sweeten your tea with raw honey , and add a splash of lemon juice for the maximum benefit.
5. Neti Pot
These are widely available now-adays, often for $10 or less. Here’s a traditional ceramic one , available at Amazon.com. My tips for using a neti pot:
Use lukewarm water mixed with salt (1/8 tsp of salt for each cup of water), or use the saline solution that comes with most neti pots.
Lean forward from your waste over a bathroom sink.
Angle your head forward and a little to the side in the direction you want the water to flow.
Open your mouth and breathe normally.
Insert the tip of the neti pot into the upper nostril, and tilt the pot slightly.
Water should begin flowing through that nostril and come out the other one to drip into the sink.
After you’ve rinsed one nostril, gently blow your nose without pinching it, then repeat the process on the other side.
If it doesn’t work the first time, keep adjusting your position (lean forward a little more, tilt your head at a greater angle, etc.) until it does work. At first, the sensation might seem odd, but you’ll quickly get used to it, especially when you feel the freedom of breathing through your nose again!
6. Peppermint Essential Oil
Of all the essential oils, peppermint is one of the cheapest, which is one thing I love about it: a small bottle (that lasts a surprisingly long time) is only $3.75 at Amazon. I’ve also found it at local health food stores for $5 or less. (You can also print out a coupon for the Aura Cacia brand.) I’ve used it a long time for cleaning solutions to give a bright, cheery fragrance, but I’ve just recently begun using it for its decongestant properties. Here are some of the ways you can take advantage of peppermint’s ability to clear up your congestion:
Put a few drops in your humidifier tank.
Put a few drops on a steaming hot wet wash rag. Rub it in, then hold it over your nose. Breathe in deeply. If it irritates your skin, just hold it in front of your nose, not directly on it.
Fill a bowl with steaming hot water, and place a drop or two of peppermint oil in it. Lean over the bowl, holding a towel over your head to capture the steam. Inhale deeply.
7. Raw Honey for Coughs and Sore Throats
Be sure the honey is raw for maximum benefit, as pasteurization ruins some of the delicate microbes that are responsible for its healing qualities. I find raw honey at Trader Joe’s for $5.99/lb or you can order it online from Tropical Traditions . It tastes like dessert, but is incredibly good for you: what could be better?! It really does soothe sore throats and it is a much healthier and more effective treatment for coughs as well.
There’s nothing worse than having a sick little one; trust me, I’ve been there more times than I care to think about! But of course, as unsafe as cold medications are for adults, they’re much worse for children. I recently discovered Zarbee’s line of cough syrups and drinks, and I love them! They are all natural and effective. My Certain Little Someone drank some of the cough & sleep drink the other night, and it really did help abate his cough and give him restful sleep. Some people argue that it’s made of stuff you can get in your cabinet, but I like that it’s already prepared in a ready-to-use format that I don’t have to fix myself. And right now, there is a coupon available at Coupons.com for $1 off any Zarbee’s product (limited time only).
9. Chicken Noodle Soup
Nobody knows why exactly chicken noodle soup is so effective at fighting the cold and flu, but it is. I think it’s one of those things where the whole is better than the sum of its parts. But don’t get it from a can! Here’s a great simple slow cooker recipe for chicken noodle soup.
Of course, this list is far from exhaustive. These are only the things I rely on time and again to ease symptoms and help my immune system fend off the dreaded foe.
What home remedies do you swear by for fighting the cold and flu?