Seeking Relief: Remedies for Battling the Flu

HUNTSVILLE Ala. -- The flu outbreak in Alabama is so widespread, Governor Ivey has declared a state of emergency. The antiviral Tamiflu is one of the most common prescription treatments for the flu, but some people prefer over the counter or natural remedies.

Darden Heritage is the pharmacist at Star Discount Pharmacy, and he said they've been packed with, "People that are starting to get symptoms, something for chest congestion, head congestion, aches."

He said along with over the counter treatments, a lot of people have come in asking for popular natural remedies.

"We have a lot of people asking for black elderberry, and the Oscillococcinum, which has been out for years, but I think there was some social media that's been pushing that. Both those products are now in short supply because of the demand."

Some evidence suggests the chemicals in elderberry may help treat cold and flu symptoms by reducing congestion, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Heritage said other homeopathic remedies, like essential oils, will not combat the flu but can help with symptoms.

"We sell essential oils, and I've never seen any claim as far antiviral, antibiotic. I wouldn't put much stock in that," Heritage said. "They could relax you, that type of thing. Help you go to sleep."

He said the pharmacy has been inundated with prescriptions for Tamiflu, an antiviral drug that, according to the FDA, attacks the flu virus and keeps it from spreading through your body. The high rates of flu across the country have led to shortages of Tamiflu.

"We haven't really experienced the shortage like other places have," Heritage said. "We've been lucky enough to get it in every day from our wholesaler."

No matter what remedies you use, Heritage says starting treatment right when you get symptoms can make all the difference.

"Early detection is the key. For the prescription products and over the counter products," Heritage said. "The sooner you start taking the medications, the better the outcome."

He said that no matter how you treat your symptoms, hand washing and staying home when you're sick are the best ways to keep the illness from spreading.

"We keep hand sanitizer at every workstation. You have to keep your hands clean, keep your hands away from your eyes and your mouth," Heritage said. That's good advice for anybody if they do not want to get the flu."

The Alabama Department of Public health is advising employers and schools to waive requirements for showing a doctor's note for absences, to encourage sick people to stay home and to not spread the flu.