Man laying on his couch with a prescription bottle and tissue on the table in front of him, blowing his nose while recovering from the flu
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Recovery strategies: How to get over the flu fast

February 21, 2024
5 minutes
Personal Health
Common Illnesses

Cold and flu season is here in full force. When you get hit hard with the flu, balancing your health becomes even more challenging. It’s important to find ways to recover as quickly as possible while maintaining your energy. Thankfully, there are some steps you can take to get past the flu as quickly as possible and get back to enjoying your life.

What is the flu?

“The flu” is a term that’s used by many to describe everything from gastrointestinal viruses to the common cold. But it’s actually a shortened name for influenza, a viral illness that can come on quickly and last for about a week. 

Some common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Respiratory concerns, including cough, runny nose and sore throat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping
  • Muscle aches

In contrast, a cold typically doesn’t have a fever and extreme weakness, though it can cause similar respiratory symptoms.

How to get over the flu fast

How long do flu symptoms last? This depends on the person, but the typical time frame for the flu is four to seven days. If you want to ease your symptoms fast, consider these tactics:

1. Rest up

Allowing yourself to rest is a key part of how to treat the flu. If you keep pushing yourself to work and take care of family responsibilities rather than taking time to rest, you might find that your symptoms linger far longer than they should.

2. Drink up

Drinking plenty of fluids can help your immune and respiratory symptoms do their jobs so you get well faster. In addition to water, which is a great choice, consider electrolyte sports drinks and bone-broth-based soups. These also add nutrients along with hydration.

3. Treat symptoms

For the flu, the best line of defense is often to treat your symptoms. If your body aches and fever are intense, consider taking OTC medications. However, if the fever doesn’t bring body aches and isn’t very high, you can let it do its job, which is getting the virus out of your body.

In addition to the fever, you may want to treat your cough and congestion. Decongestants can loosen the mucus so your body can get rid of it. An expectorant can help you clear mucus out of your lungs so you don’t develop complications such as pneumonia.

4. Talk to your doctor

If you have the flu and are at high risk for complications, your doctor may be able to prescribe an antiviral medication. While these don’t stop the flu, they can shorten it or reduce the chances of developing complications. If you have any additional symptoms beyond the typical flu symptoms, such as wheezing, ear pain, shortness of breath, or an extremely high temperature, it’s a good idea to get your doctor on board.

Nutrition for recovery

During your recovery, nutrition can help speed things up. You may not feel like eating, but you’ll want to keep your body nourished as best you can. Some foods that may speed up your recovery while providing important nutrients include:

  • Bone broth soups with antioxidant-rich vegetables
  • Fresh fruits, specifically berries
  • Lean protein from fish and poultry
  • Smoothies made from fruits and vegetables with almond milk

Eat as much as you can, even if you’re not feeling hungry, and choose these healthier options to fuel your body’s recovery.

Hydration strategies

Staying hydrated can be challenging when you don’t have an appetite. One option to try is to put yourself on a schedule to keep pushing water through. Also, if water tastes unappealing while you’re sick, don’t be afraid of clear sodas, fruit juices, and sports drinks. These can all help hydrate you and give you some calories while you’re recovering and not eating as much. You might also want to use broths and soups to add both nutrition and hydration to your recovery journey.

Rest and sleep

You’ll need to rest while you’re sick, but you may find it hard to sleep. One strategy to use to help you sleep is to treat your fever and body aches before it's time to go to bed. The relief you get may let you sleep.

When you can’t sleep, do less. This is a great time to curl up with a blanket and a favorite movie or to listen to a podcast or some favorite music. The less you do, the more your body can rest, and the faster you’ll get better.

Stress reduction techniques

Being sick is a stressful situation. Not only does your body have the stress that comes with fighting illness, but you may feel stressed because you’re missing work or other responsibilities. Using stress reduction techniques won’t change these situations, but it may improve your ability to rest even while facing them.

While you have the flu, some stress reduction techniques aren’t going to apply. Heavy exercise, for example, isn't a great idea when you're fighting the flu. However, you might find that mindfulness and meditation exercises are beneficial during this time, and they might help you reduce your stress levels.

Building resilience: Long-term habits to boost the immune system and prevent future illness

When it comes to the flu, prevention is the best strategy. Once you have the flu, you can speed up your recovery somewhat, but it does have to run its course. Some strategies that can help you prevent future illness include:

  • Supporting your immune system with balanced nutrition
  • Adding immune-boosting supplements, such as vitamin D and vitamin C
  • Drinking the right amount of water
  • Practicing good hand hygiene
  • Increasing physical activity to improve strength and endurance

In addition, consider taking the annual flu vaccine. It will protect against the most recent variation of flu, giving your immune system the information it needs to fight the flu better when you’re exposed.

Tracking your health can also help you stay on track with your wellness goals. While it may not keep you from catching the flu, making healthier choices may improve your immune system’s ability to fight it. 

Evidation can help by rewarding you for healthier choices. We’re also working on an innovative flu monitoring program called FluSmart. This program allows members to connect their health-tracking devices and record their symptoms, so we can track flu cases and help members pick up on their symptoms early, sometimes even before they realize they’re getting sick. Learn more about FluSmart and how it’s helping track and monitor the flu.

Whether you’re hoping to speed up your recovery from the flu or prevent it in the first place, tracking your health can be beneficial. Use Evidation to track your health and earn rewards for healthy choices along the way.

Common Illnesses
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