Home Remedies for Flu

Person holding a mug tea

There are many traditional and non-traditional home remedies people use to feel more comfortable and able to rest as cold and flu viruses run their course.

Try a few of the following suggestions next time you’re feeling ill, but check with your primary health care provider before starting any new medication or supplement, even if it’s over the counter.


  • Inhale steam from the shower or in the bathroom with the shower running 1-2 times a day for 5-10 minutes to loosen mucus.
  • Use a Neti pot or nasal rinse after inhaling steam 1-2 times to help clear mucus. Use distilled, sterile or previously boiled water. Tap water is not safe.
  • Use nasal saline spray to help loosen mucus.
  • Take over-the-counter cough medicines to break up mucus and reduce cough.
  • Take over-the-counter oral or nasal decongestants to help clear a runny nose and relieve postnasal drip. Check with your health care provider before taking these, especially if you have high blood pressure or prostate problems. Be mindful that nasal decongestants can make your symptoms worse if used more than 3-5 days.
  • Feeling too congested while you’re trying to sleep? Add an extra pillow under your head to help with drainage of nasal passages.

Sore Throat and Cough

  • Gargle warm salt water 2-4 times a day to reduce throat swelling and loosen mucus.
  • Diffuse cool or warm mist in a vaporizer to moisturize the nose, throat and lungs while sleeping.
  • Drink hot tea with lemon to loosen mucus and reduce congestion. Add honey to help with cough (but not for people with diabetes or children less than a 1 year old).
  • Use menthol lozenges to soothe a sore throat. They increase saliva to help keep throat moist. Try cold liquids and popsicles for children who could choke on lozenges.
  • Use over-the-counter throat sprays to numb sore throat pain.

Headache, Body Aches and Fever

  • Over-the-counter pain/fever reducers may help, but get the OK from your health care provider before taking.

Nausea and Upset Stomach

  • Drink ginger tea to reduce nausea.
  • Eat small amounts of food throughout the day to make meals easier to digest.
  • Eat bland foods and avoid dairy as it can be difficult to digest.


  • Over-the-counter supplements, including elderberry syrup and echinacea, have been studied, but there’s not enough evidence to determine whether or not they’re helpful in reducing symptoms or shortening flu’s duration.

Remember, home remedies can help you to manage flu on your own, but if you’re very sick, concerned about your illness or are at high risk for flu complications, contact your health care provider as soon as possible. Plus, if you’re feeling sick longer than two weeks or aren’t able to manage the illness on your own, call your health care provider.

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