Contrary to what some people may believe there is no definitive cure for the common cold or flu. Both are caused by viruses, so antibiotics, which are designed to target specific bacteria only, will have no effect and can actually temporarily weaken your immune system and make you feel even worse.
Preparation and protection are by far the best ways to keep yourself healthy when you’re away. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly and regularly and avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes beforehand; it’s a good idea to keep an alcohol-based sanitising gel with you in case you don’t have immediate access to water. If you feel a cough or a sneeze coming on try to have a tissue ready, then safely dispose of it as soon as possible and wash your hands. However, if there aren’t any tissues available, use the crook of your elbow; this minimises the initial burst of mucus and saliva and also stops you from contaminating your hands and everything you then touch.
If you’re going to be using shared surfaces, which includes handrails, menus, phones and keyboards to name a few, clean them as well as your hands as often as possible. Unfortunately, it only takes one person’s mistake for cold and flu viruses to spread, so sometimes the best protection is simply to avoid crowds and busy places, particularly towards the end of the year when infections significantly increase, although they have nothing to do with the cold weather.
With both lasting anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, the common cold and the flu are often confused as the symptoms they display can be very similar. Sore throats, blocked, runny noses and chesty coughs are the telltale symptoms of the common cold whereas the flu can add fevers, migraines, aches and general fatigue on top. Whilst colds and flus will almost certainly leave you feeling miserable for a few days, there are definitely things you can do to make yourself feel better and hopefully get you over it sooner rather than later.
The easiest and most important thing to do is simply to rest and drink lots of fluids to keep your body hydrated. You can lose more fluids than you might think with all the sneezing and sweating that comes with these infections so staying hydrated helps prevent another infection from setting in. Try to avoid caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, cola and energy drinks though as they can actually accelerate dehydration instead of preventing it. If you’re hungry, just follow your appetite but if not, sticking to simple, hearty foods like rice and soup will help keep your strength up and the steam will help to break up nasal congestion. Decongestants and nasal sprays can also help, whilst painkillers like paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin can offer relief from aches and fevers, although always be sure to not exceed the recommended age-appropriate dose. Cough syrups will not be particularly beneficial as the infection resides in your nasal cavity; water and fruit juice can sooth and hydrate your throat whilst gargling with saltwater will reduce swelling and sterilise to avoid further infection.
Keeping your hands clean and catching coughs and sneezes in tissues before disposing of them as safely and soon as possible is the best way to prevent colds and flus whilst resting, drinking and eating well as the best ways to get over them. However, this can be difficult whilst traveling and if your symptoms persist or increase in severity it could be a sign of ear or sinus infection, which sometimes need antibiotics to help clear them from your body.
TripMedic can arrange a consultation with a qualified practitioner nearby who can offer advice and reassurance in your own language so you can enjoy the rest of your travels.