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9 Tips to Recover Faster from COVID-19 or Flu

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woman sick in bed at home

It’s true, coronavirus and the flu can feel very similar. Many people who contract either virus can recuperate from the comfort of their own home. Dr. Stephen Rinderknecht, UnityPoint Health, tells us how to recover in our own space from the coronavirus or flu (or both).

Do I Have COVID-19 or Flu?

The flu and COVID-19 are very similar. They are both viruses, spread in a similar manner and have similar symptoms. Dr. Rinderknecht says the flu often comes on more quickly with a fever and cough. Some people even report knowing the hour they fell ill. In many COVID-19 cases, the symptoms seem to come on more gradually with non-respiratory symptoms showing up first. Regardless of your diagnosis, you can recover from both in a similar fashion. These nine tips should help you feel better, faster.

9 Ways to Recover From COVID-19 and Flu at Home

Hydrate Your Body

When people are sick, they often have low energy and appetite levels, which can lead to less liquid consumption and dehydration. Having symptoms of fever, diarrhea and/or vomiting can also cause dehydration. It’s important to drink plenty of water so your body has what it needs to fight off an illness like COVID-19 or the flu. No need to overdo the water intake – usually the recommended amount depends on body size – but it’s generally eight, 8 oz. glasses of water in one day. 

When you’re sick it’s best to stick with drinking water, but 100 percent orange juice, low-sugar sports drinks, black or green tea and 100 percent vegetable juice are all acceptable options. Skip the milk, soda, alcohol and coffee while you’re recovering from an illness.

Eat Chicken Noodle Soup

Yes, grandmother was right. Chicken noodle soups relieves congestion since it’s hot and steamy. This can help the nose start to run, which reduces sinus pressure. The steam also helps with dryness and irritation in your nose. Meanwhile, the chicken provides energy in an easy-to-digest protein and the broth helps with rehydration.

Some other feel-better-fast foods include leafy green vegetables, crackers, eggs, bananas, apples and any lean proteins. Skip the dairy – it’s hard to digest and can aggravate nausea.

Try Adding Some Honey 

Honey is an antioxidant that can make you feel better. It can soothe a sore throat and relieve a cough. You can try a teaspoon or two plain – or add it to your tea. It’s good for kids, too. But remember, honey is only for children after their first birthday.

Get Plenty of Shut Eye 

Rest is essential to feeling better. Our immune system only weakens if we don’t get proper rest. Aim to get more sleep than what’s recommended – for adults, that means going above and beyond 7 to 9 hours.

Stop Exercising 

When you are feeling rough, it’s best to skip exercise – especially long bouts of exercise or intense workouts. You should especially listen to this advice if you notice symptoms of fever, muscle/joint pain, vomiting, headache and/or diarrhea with your virus. These symptoms are a sign your body is busy fighting off the infection and needs all your energy to do its job.

Gargle with Salt Water 

Gargling with salt water is a popular remedy to help sore throats and common colds. The salt helps draw liquids to the surface, along with any viruses or bacteria in the throat. You can use warm or cool water for this, but warm water often feels better. Just mix about ½ teaspoon of salt in a glass of water to gargle a couple times per day.

Take Over-The-Counter Medications 

If you have a fever or body aches, you can take over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If you are diagnosed with the flu, you can talk to your doctor about a prescription for an antiviral – like Tamiflu. Antivirals are most effective if started within the first 48 hours of symptoms. If used accurately, they can shorten the duration of illness by about 24 hours and decrease the risk of complications, especially in high-risk populations. 

If your symptoms include a sore throat or cough, use over-the-counter cough drops or cough medicine, such as Robitussin or Delsym. Be sure to check all medication ingredients and directions before taking them, and especially before giving to children.

Sit in a Steamy Bathroom

Adults and children alike could benefit from sitting in a room that’s full of moist, warm steam that collects in the room from a running, hot shower. This can help loosen nose secretions, so it doesn’t build up causing breathing or cough difficulty. Using a cool mist humidifier serves the same purpose, as does putting your head above a steaming bowl of water.

Take a Lukewarm Bath 

Taking a lukewarm bath means finding a temperature that is warm, but not hot. This can help boost circulation and help the body regulate temperature back to normal if you have a fever. Similarly, if you have a fever, it’s a good idea to take off clothing layers and go with shorts and a t-shirt – or something very basic to allow your body to cool off. For the same reason, try to avoid bundling up under lots of covers while in bed.


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How Long Does It Take to Recover from COVID-19 and The Flu?

While you now have some tools to get better – it’s going to take your body some time to kick the illness. The average recovery time for those who have mild or normal cases of COVID-19 or flu is between one and two weeks. 

If you have COVID-19, the CDC recommends isolation from others for 10 days from when symptoms first appeared. Also, make sure you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication. 

While you’re sick, it’s important to stay away from others as much as possible. Here are some tips to help reduce the spread of viruses within your own household.

  • Wear a mask. Yes, even in your own home.
  • Don’t share. Keep all dishes, towels and bedding to yourself.
  • Isolate. Try your best to stay in a different room and use a separate bathroom, if possible.
  • Keep cleaning. Wash your hands often (or use hand sanitizer) and disinfect frequently touched surfaces often.

Monitor your health. If you start feeling worse, call your doctor’s office before going in. Emergency warning signs for both COVID-19 and the flu include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, dizziness bluish lips or face and difficulty arousing. If you have a medical emergency, contact 911 immediately.


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