It used to be that cold and flu season had well-defined periods. Nowadays, it seems that someone can catch a virus at any time of year.

With the rhinovirus and multi-strains of the flu always present, it's important to be extra vigilant against catching these germs. Unfortunately, over-the-counter medicines can be very harsh on the body and cause prescription-like side effects. Natural remedies can be more gentle on the body, can help speed recovery, and sometimes even prevent illnesses.

Speed Up Recovery by Getting Enough Sleep

Getting proper sleep is one of the best ways to help a body get past being sick. When not getting enough rest, the body's immune system can get worn down. Sleep is the body’s most natural way to renew and reset the immune system. Getting proper rest is also a way to help prevent the onset of cold and flu infections.

Preventing Flu With Steam or Humidifiers

If someone is feeling congested as part of their illness, every breath can feel labored. Therefore, a steam treatment may provide some needed relief. Whether steaming up a whole bathroom or simply using a pot or basin, or even a vaporizer, generating a very steamy and moist environment can be beneficial. Adding eucalyptus oil to the water could help provide an excellent decongestant.

The healing power of steam can be an effective way to help the whole body feel better. Known to help with aches during a cold or flu battle, steam can also help the body's immune system purge the bad toxins of the virus through pores.

If a person is experiencing congestion and a cough a humidifier may be a way to get some relief. Humidifiers are especially helpful if in a dry environment. A dry environment could be where someone resides (say the desert), or their heating source can make it dry within their house. Just be careful with a humidifier — a misting version should be avoided because this can promote bacteria and mold. Additionally, people have to make sure to clean the humidifier properly in order to help prevent mold development.

Natural Lozenges, Saline Solution, and Plenty of Fluids

A bothersome and nagging cough usually accompanies the cold or flu. Natural lozenges are a way to try to combat an aching cough. Particularly, lozenges with natural honey are good supplements to any at-home treatments. Lozenges with eucalyptus or menthol are effective as well.

Over 70 percent of the Earth is water, and the majority of that is salty water. There is something special about the salt. Saline solutions are a way to get some of that salt into the body in a healing way. Helpful for a sore throat, runny nose, or nasal congestion, saline nose drops can get some of that salt back into the body’s system. Saline nose drops or sprays are available over-the-counter at most drug stores or grocers. This solution is very safe and gentle, even for children.

Most of the human body is, believe it or not, liquid. When experiencing a cold or the flu, people have to make sure to keep their fluids up. Drinking plenty of water, real fruit juices, electrolyte sports drinks, and broth-based soups (yes, like mom's chicken noodle) help to keep the mucus down in the body.

Adding Ginger Root, Honey, and Natural Garlic to the Diet

While ginger is known as having a biting kick or sometimes as an anti-inflammatory, it is also good for helping relieve a cough or sore throat. Additional studies even show that it helps with nausea. All three of these symptoms often accompany a battle with a cold or the flu. Boiling some ginger root is a simple way to try to get some relief.

Another one of nature’s miracle is honey. In addition to being sweet and tasty, honey has a lot of good properties. For example, it's known to be antibacterial and antimicrobial. Adding some honey to tea or a meal, or simply taking a tablespoon by itself, will help with a cough. Be careful when giving it to children, though. Kids under the age of 1 should never ingest honey as it contains botulinum spores.

Since it contains the compound allicin, garlic is known for its antimicrobial properties. Adding garlic in its natural form, or as a supplement to a diet, can help reduce the severity of cold symptoms. Regular use of garlic in meals has been promoted as a way to help prevent getting sick in the first place.

Aiding Recovery With Echinacea, Vitamin C, and Probiotics

Echinacea contains flavonoids which can help boost the body's immune system. Like ginger, they also help reduce inflammation. Echinacea can be taken either before getting sick or during an illness. Taking it before may help prevent someone from getting sick. Taking Echinacea during recovery can help reduce the length of a cold or the flu.

In addition, vitamin C can be a big help to the immune system, either pre- or post-illness. While vitamin C is found in all sorts of fruits and vegetables, it is also available in tablet form. Combining it with some tea and honey is a good way to get some into the body’s system. Lemonade or orange juice are other great ways to get vitamin C. Once within the body, vitamin C not only helps the immune system, but it also combats respiratory infections. Vitamin C is another supplement that can be taken beforehand in order to help prevent getting sick.

Probiotics are another important component of a speedy recovery. As good bacteria, probiotics are naturally found in the body, certain foods, and now over-the-counter supplements. A lot of the sickness that invades the body will take up residence in the intestines. Probiotics help to keep those intestines clear, ridding the body of these germs. Probiotics can also help with upper respiratory infections. For extra protection, take probiotics before getting sick.

Reducing Stress and Other Recovery Methods

Stress is known to do real damage to the body’s immune system. A weakened immune system is like an open door to the cold and flu viruses. That's why it's important to cut back and cut out the stress that could lead to illness. As mentioned earlier, this often means getting plenty of sleep.

There are also many simple actions that can aid recovery. For example, gargling can provide some relief for a sore throat. Gargling with salt and warm water is an easy and safe way to help get some relief. Adding things such as hydrogen peroxide, honey, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice or raspberry leaves further enhances this solution.

Using hot and cold packs can also help relieve congestion. Applying the packs to congested sinuses helps to relieve some of the inflammation. This provides a nice alternative for people who don't have access to a hot steam generator. For best practices, alternate use between the hot and cold packs.

The Keys to Natural Cold and Flu Prevention

Thankfully, there are a number of natural remedies that are available to help stave off a cold or flu. Rest, de-stressing, using steam, and keeping the fluids up are all very simple ways to fight these illnesses. However, adding in things like honey, Echinacea, vitamin C, probiotics, ginger and the like can provide a real boost to an ailing immune system. It truly can be a real “battle” between the body’s immune system and the infectious bugs comprising the cold and flu viruses. Utilizing natural remedies can not only speed up recovery but can also help to reduce the chances of becoming sick in the first place and give the immune system the allies it needs in the battle.