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While prescription medications can shorten the length or severity of the flu, over-the-counter options can relieve symptoms while your illness runs its course. Natural treatments can help, too:

  • Steam breaks up nasal congestion. Take a hot shower or sit over a bowl of hot water with a towel over your head.
  • Clear broth soup offers many benefits. The steam clears your nasal passages, the liquids help replace lost fluids, and vegetables provide nutrients. The warm, salty liquid eases sore throat pain.
  • Saline spray can thin out mucous inside your nose and reduce stuffiness. A saltwater gargle can clear pain-causing germs and irritants.
  • Putting menthol ointment under (not inside) your nose or on your chest can help relieve coughs and open nasal passages. This treatment is not recommended for children under age 2, and the ointment should only be applied to clear, unbroken skin.
  • Rest to let your immune system direct its energy to fight the germs in your body.
  • Your body’s fever can fight disease. If you’re an adult with a fever under 102 degrees, you may want to let your body’s heat kill the germs (unless otherwise directed by a doctor). Fever-reducing over-the-counter medications can slow this process.