illustration of Healthline editor on a sick day drinking tea and reading book while bundled up in a blanket Share on Pinterest
Illustrated by Jason Hoffman and Brittany England

As a kid, I used to relish getting sick.

It usually meant skipping school and spending a day with my mom, who would lovingly make me chicken soup, rub my chest with Vicks Vaporub, and put a gentle hand on my feverish forehead every now and then while I watched my favorite cartoons.

If I was losing fluids, I’d get a bottle of Pedialyte sporting the familiar, cuddly-looking teddy bear. Mixed fruit was my favorite flavor — even to this day, the taste gives me warm and fuzzy feelings.

In other words, sick days meant I got a lot of love.

Now, they often bowl me over.

A foggy brain, a stuffy nose, and a slightly raised temperature mean I’m down for the count.

Sometimes I can barely even muster the energy and attention to watch TV. Instead, I hover somewhere between a state of groggy awareness and actual sleep.

When my kiddo’s involved, it’s even worse. If we happen to be sick at the same time, just keeping us fed and hydrated is a feat in itself.

We usually end up living on rice, toast, oatmeal, and other one-pot, two-button food staples. Thanks, InstantPot.

While nothing quite measures up to getting mom’s unconditional, loving care, here are my tips for surviving the cold and flu — whether it’s just you, your littles too, or the entire family.

You probably know the feeling of being just a little bit “off.” Maybe it’s a tickle in the throat, a subtly aching head, or you feel like you need a nap by mid-morning.

Whatever the signs are for you, they’re an invitation to listen.

Slow down

Though it’s usually not convenient, this is the time to heed the body’s signals and start downshifting to give yourself the best chances of a speedy recovery.

Slowing down can look different for everyone. For me, it means saying no to additional obligations, skipping hard workouts, and giving myself ample time to do nothing.

Boost immunity

As I reduce my outgoing energy expenditures, I also put more good stuff in.

I focus on upping essential nutrients, like:

  • vitamin C
  • vitamin D
  • zinc
  • selenium

Plus, I reach for herbal blends that contain astragalus, elderberry, and Yin Chiao or Yin Qiao San, a classic Chinese medicine formula.

Meal prep

When I’m just starting to feel a little icky, I do myself a big favor with some simple meal planning.

I focus on soupy, hearty options like oxtail stew or jook — the rice porridge I fell in love with in Thailand. Both can be frozen and stored for easy heat up later.

I also have some bone broth at the ready for sipping, whether store-bought or homemade. The extra nutrients and hydration can go a long way!

Get stocked up

On top of cartons of broth, I grab canned soup and easy options for quick meals. Canned salmon, creamed spinach, microwave rice — whatever works.

I make sure to have bread on hand for buttered toast. Nothing settles my upset tummy better.

While I grab my food, I also make sure I have plenty of tissues, sanitizer, and any over-the-counter or herbal remedies I might need.

If I stick to my sick-day preparedness plan, I’m ready to take it when the ick hits me with full force.

Rest, rest, and rest some more

I’m no longer doing stuff at this stage. It’s usually a merry-go-round situation between the bed to the couch. I also try to sleep whenever my kiddo sleeps.

That way, I’m as energized and alert as I can possibly be when he needs me.

If I’m restless and can’t sleep, I put on a yoga nidra recording to calm and relax my aching body and agitated mind.

Liquids and easy-to-digest foods

As mentioned before, I love my soups and stews. They require one pot, they’re easy to store, and they can be frozen to get me through the entire cold or flu journey.

My little guy, on the other hand, loathes liquid foods of all stripes. Instead, he gets lots of buttered rice (with broth if I’m sneaky enough), oatmeal, and easy-to-digest proteins, like eggs.

I also focus on restoring lost electrolytes with coconut water and soothing our tummies with ginger tea. The kiddo will drink it if I add honey.

Pro tip: You can make your own electrolyte beverage with a little sugar and salt.

Cold and heat therapy

These are the times I’m grateful for my electric heating mat and microwaveable heating pads.

Gua sha can also be a helpful tool for headaches, puffiness, and moving lymph. You can pop your tool in the freezer for some cooling comfort.

Soothing discomfort

When it comes to a cough, stuffy nose, headache, or tight, congested chest, I’m all about essential oils.

Try one of these or a blend for relief:

  • peppermint
  • eucalyptus
  • rosemary
  • thyme
  • cinnamon
  • geranium

Oregano oil can be helpful too, but it’s incredibly strong. Use extreme caution because it can even burn the skin.

These oils are good options for supporting sleep and relaxation:

  • bergamot
  • lavender
  • chamomile
  • vetiver
  • ylang ylang

I especially enjoy diffusing these through a humidifier if I’m congested, and so does my kiddo.

One upside of the whole fam being sick is you don’t need to worry about spreading germs amongst each other. A good cuddle can do wonders for soothing aches, pains, and sick-day blues.

While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with a healthcare professional before you begin using essential oils, and be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.

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Don’t go full steam ahead

It’s easy to get over-excited when I start to get my energy back, but I almost always regret it if I spring full force into my regular tasks.

Instead, I go back to stage one and treat myself the same way as if I was just feeling symptoms coming on.

The rules still apply

I still focus on fluids, underdoing, and taking naps — and not much else.

Be patient — and kind

It can sometimes feel like a bug is lingering forever, and it’s easy to get frustrated with myself and my body for the slow pace of healing.

I remind myself that I’ve given myself the best care I could, that my immune system is doing its job, and it’s only a matter of time until I’m back at it.

Getting sick can throw a wrench in your plans, but the right support can get you through it.

To that end, Healthline has put together the Cold & Flu Season Survival Guide. It covers everything you need to be prepared when sickness rears its head.

If you’ve got questions about vaccines, what to eat to bolster your immune system, or how long you’ll have to wait to recover, you’ll find all the answers you’re looking for.

It’s just our way of looking out for you and yours as the cold and flu season strikes.