At this time, staying safe and protected from viral infections is more important than ever before. No matter how strong you believe your immune system to be, everyone is at risk of catching a virus that could leave them seriously ill.
While there is no sure-fire way to prevent a virus for good, there are methods to fight viral infections that you can put into practice, along with seeking the recommended medical support.
Many people don’t realise that the symptoms you experience from a viral infection are your body’s way of telling you that it’s fighting the illness. A fever, for example, comes about when your body is trying to kill viruses by creating a hotter-than-normal environment.
Coughing is intended to clear your breathing passages of thick mucus that can carry germs to your lungs and the rest of your body. However, even while these symptoms might be doing their best to help your body heal, you can use your own natural interventions to speed up the recovery process.
Stay tuned to learn of the most effective methods for naturally fighting viral infections.
1. Blow your nose when you need to – and do it properly!
We’ve all sat on public transport with a chronic sniffer, and, quite frankly, there’s nothing more annoying. Aside from angering your peers, though, there’s another issue with not blowing your nose – you’re actually prolonging your viral infection.
Rather than sniffing the mucus back into your head, it’s important to blow your nose regularly, or whenever it feels congested or starts to run. Just make sure not to blow too hard, which can actually create pressure that sends your phlegm into your ear canal, leading to an infection. The best way to blow your nose is to press one finger over your nostril and gently blow into a tissue to clear the other.
2. Make a saltwater treatment
One of the most effective stuffy nose remedies is to make a saltwater treatment. Rinsing your sinuses with saltwater should clear your congestion dramatically, removing harmful virus microorganisms along with the mucus. This will speed your body up in its healing process, helping you to get better, faster.
To make a saltwater treatment, mix a quarter of a teaspoon of salt with a quarter of a teaspoon of baking soda in 8 ounces of warm water. Use a small syringe to squirt water into your nose, then hold one nostril closed with one finger while squirting the salt mixture into the other nostril.
This won’t feel too comfortable, but you should be able to get used to it. Let it drain, then repeat two to three times before moving onto the other nostril.
3. Stay hydrated
There’s nothing special or magical about water as a natural antiviral, yet it’s one of the most effective treatments out there. Simply staying hydrated will not only help you to fight off viral infections, but it’ll also put you at a lower risk of getting them in the first place.
When you're hydrated, your body has a natural ability to flush germs out of your system. It’s recommended that you drink a minimum of two litres of water a day. If you’re finding this difficult with your virus symptoms, try warming up the water and adding a squeeze of lemon juice for a more comforting drink.
4. Up your intake of vitamin C
Vitamin C is one of the most important nutrients you can take when you’re ill with a viral infection, as it boosts your overall health, including your immune system. Studies have found vitamin C to be effective against a whole host of harmful pathogens, including viruses, while a lack of vitamin C has been long known to increase susceptibility to viruses.
Vitamin C isn’t just found in citrus fruits – kale, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, and bananas are also good sources. Some fruit juices, breakfast cereals, and dairy products are also fortified with vitamin C. If you still don’t think you get enough in your diet, you can supplement with vitamin C tablets or dissolvable powder.
5. Drink honey and tea
Your mum or grandma most likely gave you honey and tea when you were ill, and there’s a reason for this that goes beyond old wives’ tales. Honey is a natural sweetener, so it’s much better for you than sugar, and it has natural antiviral and antimicrobial properties. Manuka honey in particular has been found in studies to efficiently inhibit the replication of influenza virus.
You can buy honey from your local supermarket, but manuka honey is a bit more specialist, so you’re more likely to find that in health stores or online. Simply squeeze a teaspoon of honey into your daily cups of tea and give it a stir. Add a drop of lemon juice for the ultimate virus-fighting combination.
6. Whip up a chicken soup
Here’s another mum’s favourite! There’s also science behind this popular supper dish to suggest it really can clear up viral infections faster. It’s thought that hot liquids, such as soup, help reduce mucus build-up and keep you hydrated. So why chicken soup in particular? Well, research shows that it has anti-inflammatory properties, which help reduce a cold's unpleasant side effects.
The best chicken soup for viral infections is the homemade sort. If you can handle standing over the stove for up to an hour, it’s definitely worth concocting your own recipe to get the most out of your meal. If you’re too sick to be up for cooking, shop-bought soup is better than nothing.
7. Experiment with aromatherapy
Essential oils aren’t just nice to smell – they’re also pretty impressive in fighting common viral infections like cold and flu. There are certain ingredients in essential oils that produce antiviral activity, including bergamot oil, eucalyptus oil, red thyme, and cinnamon leaf. Studies have also suggested that tea tree oil might have antiviral properties when used as an aromatherapy oil.
The best way to benefit from aromatherapy oils for viral infections is through something called inhalation therapy. To practice this yourself, mix your preferred essential oils in hot water and lean over to inhale the vapours, or use a room diffuser. Top tip from us: inhaling eucalyptus is particularly effective if you’re looking to ease congestion.
8. Supplement with Andrographis leaves
If you haven’t already heard of Andrographis leaves, it’s worth doing your research on them. They contain immunostimulatory properties, which essentially means that when you get sick, they can help your immune cells to fight against a virus more effectively. Andrographis leaves also help your spleen to produce a greater number of white blood cells, which you need to ward off infection in the first place.
There’s even evidence to suggest that Andrographis leaves reduce fevers, decrease inflammation, and prevent viruses from reproducing. You can buy these as dried leaves or in powder or capsule form online, and they’re suitable for supplementing with on a daily basis.
9. Supplement with elderberry
Another plant source that can be used to treat viral infections is elderberry. This plant is packed full of bioflavonoids, which are vitamin C enhancers, helping us to naturally boost our health and immunity. Elderberry also contains tannins and essential oils that are active against certain viral infections, like the flu.
So, how does it work? Experts think that elderberry can stop a protein called hemagglutinin that the virus needs to replicate. You can supplement with elderberry tablets, but a particularly nice remedy for when you’re actually ill is to drink a warm mug of elderberry tea.
10. Bask in the sunshine
Vitamin D is thought to regulate more than 2,000 genes, including those that make up our immune system. This makes vitamin D an incredibly effective natural defense against viral infections. You won’t find vitamin D in most food sources – instead, it’s synthesized by your body when your skin is exposed to sunlight.
If you’ve ever wondered why more people get ill in the winter, it’s because they’re exposed to less UV radiation from the sun. Many doctors argue that the current recommended daily amount of vitamin D, 400 units per day, is much too low. Try to go for double or triple this amount, and supplement if you don’t think you get enough from sunlight only.
11. Add fresh ginger to your diet
Recent studies have shown that ginger root reduces pain and inflammation – which is exactly what you need when you’re dealing with unpleasant symptoms of a viral infection, like sore throat, chesty cough, and aching muscles. Ginger is believed to help prevent viral infections by increasing the body’s temperature, which kills off harmful microorganisms. It also flushes out toxins from your body.
It’s best to use fresh ginger in meals and homemade juices. If you’d rather not include it in your dishes, you can make a soothing ginger tea with raw honey. Simply add a thumb-sized piece of ginger to hot water and let it sit for ten minutes. Then add a drop of honey and drink when it’s cool enough.
Your immune system is mostly contained within your digestive tract, which explains why the levels of beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, in our digestive systems are so important for a healthy immune system function.
When you’re fighting a viral infection, make sure to include probiotic-rich foods like kombucha, coconut kefir, and fermented vegetables in your diet. They might not be the most delicious things in the world, but they’ll help your body to naturally fight viral infections from the inside.
Of course, there are plenty of so-called natural remedies for fighting viral infections that aren’t effective at all. For example, there’s no reason to believe that exposing yourself to cold weather can kill viruses, as your body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37°C no matter what. The same goes for taking a hot bath – it might feel nice if you’re unwell, but it won’t help to prevent viruses or help you to get better faster.
Another slightly bizarre myth says that spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body can kill a viral infection. If a virus has already entered your body, it won’t do you much good to spray your skin with an antiviral.
In fact, these substances can do more harm than good to your health, especially if you get them too close to your nose or mouth. While both alcohol and chlorine can be useful to disinfect surfaces, you should only ever use them as advised by the manufacturer.
All of the natural flu remedies mentioned in this video can be taken independently or together. As well as sticking to the right diet and ensuring you take in the best nutrients, make sure to get plenty of rest and avoid refined sugar and unhealthy processed foods.
And if your health gets worse, don’t hesitate to seek medical support. While natural remedies will go some way to helping you heal, in more serious cases, you may not get better without the help of an expert.
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