Notes from a Portland Acupuncturist: Tips for Managing the Symptoms of the Flu

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tips for managing the flu


Tips for Managing the Flu


Ok, so avoidance and vaccination didn’t cut it. You got the flu. Fever, body aches, sore throat, cough, headache, fatigue — you feel awful. So what do you do now? How do you manage the symptoms and try to minimize the severity of the flu?


Stay home.

This year’s flu season is at its peak, and it is severe and easy to spread. Don’t try to power through it, or to go back to work too soon. If you come down with the flu, make it your goal not to pass it on to anyone else. You are contagious for about 5-7 days after your symptoms first appear, so limit your contact with other people during this time. Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever has gone down.


sleeping woman insomnia portland acupunctureRest.

Just as above — trying to push through the flu does not make you tough. The only thing you will accomplish is likely having more severe and longer-lasting symptoms. You feel awful, so take the cues your body is giving you and rest. Catch up on your favorite tv show, lay around, and sleep!


Stay hydrated.

This year’s flu is leading to high fevers in many people. Remember that a fever, even a low one, can lead to dehydration. Vomiting and/or diarrhea makes this even more likely. Drink lots of water, and if needed, you can add a few electrolytes (try natural ones like coconut water or Recharge rather than those full of sugar and artificial colors). Watch for signs like dark urine, bad breath, and dry lips to assess dehydration.


Try a facial steam.

Stuffy nose and sinus congestion commonly accompany the flu. One way to relieve the pressure and clear your nasal passages is by doing a nasal steam.  Here’s an easy-to-follow “how to” for doing an at home sinus/nasal steam.

Soaking in a hot bath with 1-2 cups of epsom salts will help ease your body aches. If you close the shower curtain/doors around the bathtub, you can get a good sinus steam while you’re in the tub. If you have a high fever, you may prefer to take a lukewarm bath to help bring the fever down. NOTE: Do not add essential oils directly to your bath. For advice on how to do that, check out this article.


Use a chest rub.

This is a great way to relieve those chest and back muscles that are tired and tight from coughing. Bonus: the scents in most chest rubs can also help to open up clogged sinuses.


hot water lemon honey to soothe cough

Drink lemon, hot water, and honey.

This hot tea concoction can help soothe a scratchy throat and ease coughing. Mix one cup of hot water with the juice of one lemon (approximately 2-3 Tablespoons), and add in honey to taste. This elixir is safe enough to use on children over 12 months of age.


Know when to go to the doctor.

According to the Harvard Health website, adults should consider seeing the doctor if they:

  • Start to feel unusually short of breath;
  • Cough up yellow, green or brown sputum;
  • Start to get a sharp pain in the chest every time they take in a deep breath;
  • Get a bad earache;
  • Have a fever above 103 degrees Fahrenheit;
  • Start to feel lightheaded, or actually pass out;
  • Have a serious chronic disease like heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease or diabetes, or have medical conditions or take medicines that suppress the immune system.

You don’t want to unnecessarily clog up the ER/urgent care/doctor’s office, but don’t try to be a hero. If you feel like something is Wrong (notice the capital ‘W’), see your doctor.


When to contact your acupuncturist/herbalist:

Right away! We can help. Cupping therapy can help ease your back muscles from too much coughing, which in turn can lessen your cough. There are herbal formulas that excel at getting helping you kick the residual cough that often lingers for a week or more after the flu. And there are some treatments that can actually help you feel better faster when you are in the thick of it. Check with your acupuncturist before coming in, however, as some practitioners won’t want you coming in with an active fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. In cases of emergency, or if you have any of the signs/symptoms listed above, see your doctor first.