Angela Kerchner MD, ABFM, ABIHM

Family, Integrative & Holistic Medicine Resources for the Whole Family   

Influenza is rearing its ugly head! I have seen several cases recently, and I know how incredibly miserable it makes those suffering feel. They come to the ER or to the clinic begging for relief. I wanted to share some tips that might help at home. The only real "cure," for the flu is rest, time, and patience. Most people will get better with time.

Symptoms of the flu usually start rather quickly with fever, headache, body aches, cough, and just plain feeling lousy. Some people also experience nausea and vomiting. The best things you can at home do include:

1. Stay home - protect others by not exposing them. You are a public health risk if you have the flu. Don't go into public unless you really must. Send others on errands for you, and ask them to wear a mask when with you. Do not go to work. If your boss has questions, send them this information.

2. Wash your hands often, cover your cough/sneeze, and don't spit on people (that's not nice anyway).


3. Stay hydrated - sip on things frequently. No need to guzzle! Water, tea, diluted lemon juice, and bone broth are all good choices.

4. Eat if it sounds good, if not, just keep drinking.

5. Vitamin C 500mg every day, Zinc 50mg every day, and Echinacea 800 mg every day throughout your illness may help.

6. Oregano essential oil, used in a diffuser or diluted in a carrier oil and applied to the skin (topical application not safe in young children) may help kill viral cells. We don't have much data on influenza, but we know oregano oil does kill other viruses, and it won't likely cause harm when used correctly.

7. Honey is as good as over-the-counter cough syrup (dextromethorphan) for a cough, and has no icky side effects. Do not give honey or cough syrup to babies under the age of two.


8. Tamiflu or its generic, osteltamivir, shortens influenza by an average of 23 hours (in a 7-10 day illness) and can be very expensive. In Europe they don't use it anymore because it is really not much better than Tylenol at relieving symptoms. In the U.S. we seem to like drugs and paying for them so it is still on the market. If 23 hours are worth the price of the doctor visit and drug for you, please read the potential side effects.  In order for the drug to be effective, it must be started as soon as possible after symptoms begin (ideally less than 12 hours after symptoms begin).

9. Fevers are your body's way of fighting the virus. Your body knows that you can survive the fever, but hopes the virus can't. A fever means your immune system works - yay! It doesn't feel so good but as long as the temperature can be kept below 104 and you can drink fluids, it is ok to have a fever. Remember, the fever is not the enemy!

10. Natural ways to control high temperatures include wearing light-weight clothing, avoiding blankets, drinking cool liquids, and taking lukewarm baths (100-110 degrees F). Do not take cold baths as these can cause shivering which makes a fever worse. "Sweating out," a fever is not recommended, as it can make temperatures go up.

11. The normal dose for acetaminophen (Tylenol) for an adult is 650 - 1,000 mg every 4-6 hours. It helps with pain and fever.

12. The normal dose for ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) is 400 mg every 6 hours WITH FOOD. Do not take ibuprofen if you have heart disease, kidney disease, or ulcers. Acetaminophen is safer for you.

13. Taking more acetaminophen than recommended can cause liver failure. You don't want a liver transplant, follow the directions. Healthy adults and teens may safely take up to 4,000 mg of acetaminophen from all sources combined in a 24-hour period.  Those with liver disease can sometimes take up to half this amount (2,000 mg per day) but should consult a physician for specific instructions.


14. Taking more ibuprofen than recommended will increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, kidney failure, or ulcers, but will NOT decrease your pain more than the normal dose. So please, follow the directions. 

15. If you are having trouble breathing, are vomiting so much that you aren't peeing at least 3 times per day, you have a severely stiff neck, a weird rash, or you seriously think you will not survive please see a doctor.


16. If your baby is a baby, please take him or her to the doctor.  Young infants and children under 5 are at higher risk for complications from influenza.

17. Older adults may have more problems and may need to see a doctor. I will let you decide how old is old. It really is an individual thing.

18. If you are an OTHERWISE HEALTHY adult it is usually best to stay home. The doctor will tell you all the things I just did and can't really help you any more than that.


19. Those who have other illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, or other conditions should see a doctor if they are unable to manage symptoms or unable to continue their usual medications at home. If you are wondering if you should see someone, please call your doctor and report your symptoms.


20. Please, do not ask for an antibiotic. It won't help and it might hurt.


I hope you are all well and do not need any of this advice!

Angela Kerchner M.D.

Next Chapter: Your Health

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