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Another sick day? Try these home remedies

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No one likes staying home with a cold or the flu. In addition to feeling physically miserable, we miss social gatherings, fall behind at work and can’t get to the other tasks on our long to-do lists.   

But staying home when you’re sick is the right thing to do. To help you feel better faster, we’ve pulled together some tips to maximize your home recovery.     

1. Know your illness 

Do you have a cold or the flu? That matters because while a cold is a mildly unpleasant illness, the flu can lead to serious complications in at-risk groups such as young children, people 65 and older and pregnant women.  

Here’s the gist: Colds and the flu share some symptoms, like coughing, a sore throat and a runny nose. But flu symptoms tend to start suddenly and can also come with the following: 

  • Fever over 102 degrees 
  • Body aches 
  • Chills 
  • Fatigue 
  • Diarrhea or vomiting 

Knowing what you have can help you decide how much you should limit your exposure to others.  

2. Know your remedies 

When you’re sick, there’s no sense in “toughing it out.” There are some common remedies you can try at home to minimize your misery.  

Choose the right medication. If you have the flu, you might ask your doctor for an antiviral prescription to help you recover quicker.  

Sadly, there’s no such remedy for the common cold, but there are many over-the-counter options to help you cope. Just be sure to choose the right one for your symptoms. Here’s a mini-guide: 

  • Decongestants unclog a stuffed-up nose 
  • Cough suppressants soothe a nagging cough 
  • Expectorants loosen mucus 
  • Antihistamines help stop a runny nose 
  • Pain relievers reduce fever, minor aches and headaches 

Take it easy. Ignore that little voice telling you to keep going. Rest is key to helping your body fight infection. This is especially crucial when you have a fever. 

Use a humidifier. Adding moisture to the air helps loosen nasal and chest congestion.  

Drink up. Clear liquids like water, tea and broth can prevent dehydration. They help break up mucus too. Steer clear of caffeinated drinks, which can dry you out. 

Try a salty solution. Saline nasal drops can combat a stuffy nose and gargling warm saltwater helps calm a scratchy throat.  

3. Know how long you’re contagious 

Cold and flu viruses spread easily. They can travel by air in the tiny droplets released when people cough, talk or sneeze. And they can live on surfaces, infecting people by touch. It’s important to know how long you might be able to infect others. 

If you have the flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you stay home for at least one day after your fever is gone. That’s only if you’re fever-free without help from fever-reducing medicines. If you have a cold, you should wait until you’re symptom-free. 

4. Know how to prevent illness 

These tips are short and sweet, but they can go a long way toward staving off sickness the next time you’re exposed to cold or flu germs.  

  • Get your flu shot: A yearly vaccination is your top tool for keeping the flu at bay 
  • Wash your hands: Germs can spread through contaminated surfaces, so suds up often with warm, soapy water. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds each time 
  • Boost your defenses: Keep your immune system strong by eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep 

Stay on your (vaccination) schedule 

Keeping up with your vaccines can help you stay healthier, so you call in sick less often. See the shots adults need most—and whether you might be due for yours.