It’s cold and flu season, and regardless of how hard you try not to, you still might get sick. Antibiotics don’t cure a cold, and if you don’t want to go to the doctor for the flu, then you should try some of these instant remedies for cold and flu.

1. Get plenty of rest.

Your body needs all the energy it can get to fight off the cold. If you’re able to get a lot of sleep as soon as your throat feels scratchy, you have a good chance of fighting off the cold before it takes you out of commission. Make sure you’re completely over your illness before jumping back into your regular routine. Trying to get back to business too quickly might keep you sicker, longer.

2. Drink fluids.

Make sure you’re drinking at least two quarts of liquids a day. When you’re sick, you’re losing a lot of fluids from sweating, blowing your nose, and coughing. If you allow your body to become dehydrated, you’re just inviting the illness to set up camp even longer. Make sure you’re getting plenty of liquids, whether it’s from water, juice, soups, teas, or even water-heavy fruits and vegetables!

3. Get plenty of vitamin C.

Make sure some of that fluid you’re drinking is orange juice, high in vitamin C! You can also eat strawberries, kiwis, and green leafy vegetables—all of which have high vitamin C contents. Even a vitamin C supplement will help prevent colds, or shorten the duration of a cold you already have. These tablets can be found at most drug and health food stores.

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4. Gargle with salt water.

Mixing a 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a glass of warm water makes a better medication for sore throats than mouthwashes you can buy at the store. It’s less harsh and it’s easy to make because you have the ingredients right in your kitchen! Gargle every six to eight hours until you feel some relief. If your throat is still sore after two days, call the doctor.

5. Use a steam treatment.

It sounds glamorous, doesn’t it? A steam treatment will loosen the mucus in your nasal passages so you can breathe easier, and it does so without drying out your nose. If you have a humidifier, use that according to the directions. But if you don’t own a humidifier, there’s a simple solution—the shower! Let the shower run hot water and close the bathroom door so it will steam up. Sit in the bathroom and breathe deeply to inhale the steam. (If the heat starts to make you feel dizzy or overheated, take a break!)

6. Take elderberry syrup.

Are you a fan of natural methods of healing, as opposed to medication? Try taking elderberry syrup, which is a natural immune system booster and a great cold remedy. You can take a teaspoon of syrup every morning, add a few drops of elderberry extract to water or juice, or drink elderberry tea. The syrup, extract, and teas can be found at health food stores.

7. Eat raw honey.

Honey is another natural immune system booster that soothes sore throats and contains anti-viral properties. Just like the elderberry syrup, you can either eat a spoonful of raw honey, or mix it in to a mug of warm water or tea.

8. Eat garlic.

Believe it or not, garlic has a lot of health benefits! It has antiviral, antibiotic, and antimicrobial properties. Like honey and elderberry syrup, garlic has been shown to relieve cold symptoms, shorten a cold’s duration, and naturally boost the immune system. You can take supplements, but garlic is most effective when it’s eaten raw. Crush up a clove and let it sit out for 15 minutes. This allows time for allicin, a potent anti-bacterial agent, to develop. If you really love garlic, you can eat it on its own at this point. If you need a little enticing, then mix it with honey or olive oil and put it on a cracker.

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9. Eat a hot pepper.

Think about it—your nose runs when you eat peppers, whether you’re sick of not, right? Chile peppers contain capsaicin, which is a compound that gives them a flavor kick and acts as a decongestant for your stuffy nose. If you don’t like hot peppers, try a more mild bell pepper. They don’t have capsaicin, but they have enough vitamin C to make it worth the bite.

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