Got a virus? Here’s how to supercharge your recovery

If you’ve been hit for six by a nasty virus, here’s how to get back to full health.

The common cold, gastro, or the multitude of other viruses out there can leave you feeling like a shadow of your former self.

While there’s no magic cure – and you can forget antibiotics when it comes to viruses – there’s plenty of ways to give yourself a fighting chance of a speedier recovery.

Allow your body rest

It might sound catchy on an ad, but soldiering on will do your recovery more harm than good.

You can shorten the illness by giving yourself adequate rest,” says Dr Anita Munoz, of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

“Whereas I think people who just continue to soldier on, their poor bodies just don’t have as much chance to get on top of the virus.”

However, she says strict bed rest is rarely recommended. Instead, try to move around a little bit, have a shower, or at least change your position on the couch.

Eat well, but don’t force it

Dr Munoz says it’s important to eat nutritious food, and stay hydrated.

Things like chicken soup are really helpful because they’re so nutritious but they’re also easy to eat when you’ve got a sore throat and you’re really congested,” she says.

“But really the message is food that’s nutritious, that’s wholesome, home prepared and that involves vegies, salad, and some protein.”

However Dr Paul Grinzi says if you don’t feel like eating much, don’t force it.

“When we’re unwell we lose a bit of appetite – our appetite at that stage is a good guide that our body wants a bit of a rest from digestion,” he says.

“A loss of appetite for a few days isn’t going to cause much grief.”

Try to get a good night’s sleep

Ensuring you get enough quality sleep all-year round will help ward off viruses in the first place.

But when you’re sick, it can be tricky to get the sleep your body needs.

“Sometimes even just some basic pain relief can even just take the edge off things like a sore throat and muscle aches,” Dr Grinzi says.

So stock up on paracetamol or ibuprofen, or honey and lemon to soothe that scratchy throat.

What about supplements?

Dr Munoz says there’s very little hard evidence that taking supplements does much for the common cold.

And bear in mind if you get sick, and you feel a bit off, and have a bit of a temperature, that’s actually a sign that your immune system is going into battle for you and it’s functioning exactly the way it should, Dr Munoz says.

And while Vitamin C tablets are unlikely to cause you any harm, Dr Munoz says it’s always much better to get your vitamins from food where possible.

“Having a nutritious diet is always much, much better than having to take what’s essentially an artificial supplement,” she says.

Be patient with your recovery time

Dr Munoz says all viruses behave slightly differently, and can last for varying periods of time.

“The idea that viral respiratory illnesses should be fully resolved within four or five days is actually a little bit of a myth,” she says.

“We know the average time to have symptoms from that virus is probably at least about 10 days and easily up to two weeks.”

Written by Larissa Ham.