Elderberry syrup and Dutch oven filled with warm soup on wooden table

Surviving A Cold During Flu Season

It is that beautiful, frosty time of year when the days get shorter and the nights get longer. Months of log fires, knitted jumpers, festive holidays and cozy evenings in. Yet, there is something threatening lying just beyond the aroma of pumpkin spice and the twinkle of Christmas lights... flu season.

So, what can we do to prepare for the months of contagious coughs and menacing microbes that are sure to plague the nation? Mayo Clinic suggests all the regular things such as over-the-counter cold remedies, decongestion sprays, staying hydrated with warm liquids, gargling saltwater to soothe a sore throat, relieving pain and resting as much as possible.1 My personal antidotes for surviving flu season cystic fibrosis style are:

How I get through flu season with CF

Elderberry syrup

This is the first thing I reach for in my medicine cabinet. These dried, tiny, black berries that are stewed to create a sticky-sweet syrup are packed with high-dose vitamin C. In medical studies, this low cost, all-natural miracle potion has been proven to reduce the severity and duration of influenza.2

Extra nebs and physio

Yep, I said it. Treatment can feel tedious at the best of times, but they really do make the difference between being able to breathe when your nose is missing in action. I always recover much faster if I up my treatment during a viral meltdown.

Easily prepared food

A few rounds of batch cooking in the winter months to freeze some ready prepared meals for those times when I am feeling "less than great" is essential.

Homemade, hearty chicken soup to blow the cold cobwebs away is a must, but other easy-to-freeze choices are curries, spag bol’ and a good ol’ Shepards pie. If you don’t have anything ready to go in the freezer when a cold hits, there is no shame in buying some ready meals to get you through.

Menthol muscle rubs

I slather this stuff on like it is going out of fashion. Camphor rubs are "make or break" when trying to find some breathing ease. Chest, back, neck, temples - Lube up and prepare to smell like supersized chewing gum.

Nasal rinses

All hail the Gods of Neti Pots. There is nothing more satisfying than rinsing away all the gunk that is building a home in my upper airways which will speed up recovery by getting rid of any green lurking lurgies.

Hot magnesium salt baths

I am a big fan of magnesium bath salts any time of year, but they are incredibly helpful when I have a cold. Magnesium has a wealth of benefits from detoxification, to muscle relaxation, to restful, deeper sleep.3

I always add a couple of drops of pure essential oil to the salts to create a steam inhalation which helps me feel better, too. Firm favorites are eucalyptus or rosemary for decongestion and lavender or camomile to soothe my airways.


Waving my white flag doesn't come easily but I always reach out to my team when I am coming down with something. Usually they will give me oral antibiotics during a viral flare, as it always leads onto my chest. Sometimes I need to admit defeat by going in for IVs.

And that, my friends, is how I just about survive a flu season. How about you? What are your tips for getting through flu season with cystic fibrosis? Share in the comments below!

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