How do you shorten a cold or flu?

A cold or flu can disrupt day-to-day activities but, with a few simple steps, you can soon get on top of your symptoms. My advice for anyone suffering from the likes of congestion and coughing is:
1. Rest
2. Get extra sleep
3. Have a hot drink
4. Get more vitamins and minerals
5. Address your symptoms

1. Rest

When a cold or flu hits, it can be really tempting to push on as normal but, if you want to get rid of symptoms fast, the best thing you can do is rest! This will give the body time to recover and avoids everyday stress that could hamper recovery.

Whilst it can be helpful to put your feet up and take some time off work, you may also benefit from a warm bath. The hot water will relax the muscles and joints so is ideal if you are feeling achy as a result of a cold or flu. In addition, the steam generated by the hot water can loosen mucus to help ease congestion.

If you are able to relax at home, I would also recommend using essential oils in your bath, or placing them in a diffuser, as this can be helpful in relieving symptoms. Here are a few essential oils that can be helpful: Eucalyptus – helps relieve symptoms of the common cold, as well as muscle strain and cramp. Rosemary – can be enlivening which is just what you need if you are feeling sluggish as a result of a cold or flu. Peppermint oil – can be good for fatigue, may also help to clear the nasal passages. Lavender - can be quite relaxing so this is good if you are struggling to sleep.

2. Get extra sleep

Sleep and the immune system are closely connected. Lack of sleep can hinder immune function, for example, making you more prone to colds and flu. If you have already come down with an infection, failing to get enough sleep can then make it more difficult to shift symptoms.

Unwinding before bed with a relaxing bath or by reading a book can encourage a more restful night's sleep. Try not to watch television or spend time on your phone, however, as this light can actually trick your brain into thinking it's day time which is likely to disrupt sleep.

If symptoms such as a blocked nose are keeping you awake, try propping your head up a little higher with an extra pillow or check out some of the natural remedies listed below. Really, we should be aiming for around 9 hours of sleep a night when we are unwell so make sure you head to bed at a time that makes this possible.

3. Have a hot drink

Research shows hot drinks can help cold and flu symptoms, it is found that a hot drink significantly improved symptoms including a runny nose, cough, sore throat and fatigue. Participants who were given a drink at room temperature, however, did not see the same benefits.

Researchers concluded that "A hot, tasty drink is a beneficial treatment for relief of most symptoms of the common cold and flu." So, what kind of drink should you opt for?

Well, first of all, I would recommend avoiding anything with lots of dairy – so warm milk, frothy coffees and hot chocolate are all off the menu! Dairy can make mucus thicker and, therefore, risks making a runny nose and congestion worse.

A better option is hot water mixed with lemon and honey as this can be quite soothing for the throat. It is also really important to stay hydrated – drinking lots of liquids can soothe symptoms and aid recovery. Hot drink can help to ease symptoms such as muscle aches and a sore throat, as well as helping to prevent the spread of a virus. This should help you get over an infection quicker.

4. Get more vitamins and minerals

Nutritious, fresh foods can go a long way to improving cold and flu symptoms.

Vitamin C can help to banish a cold or flu fast, as it helps to support the immune system. This means including plenty of fresh broccoli, strawberries and tomato in your diet, which are all rich in vitamin C, is important when you're poorly. Other than this, vitamins A and B are important for good immune function so foods like banana and spinach are ones to hone in on.

A good way to ensure you are getting all these nutrients is to cook fresh, though I know this isn't always possible when you are ill and feeling lethargic. I'd therefore recommend mixing up a quick smoothie – this means that, even if you aren't able to cook from scratch at meal times, at least you will still be getting lots of good stuff!

5. Prepare early for cold and flu season

Getting ready for and flu season early is the best way to avoid colds and flu – or at least reduce their severity! Nobody wants to get sick over the festive and holiday break, so it’s important to make sure your immune system is strong and healthy now. And with colds and flu already making an appearance across the country, now is a great time to take a look at what you could be doing to prepare.

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Always read the label. Follow directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health profesional. Vitamin and mineral can be of assistance if diectory intake is inadequate.

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