I have found that paracetemol/acetaminophen is surprisingly effective in reducing the collateral effects of a cold or the flu. It won’t make the illness end any faster but it can make life a bit more endurable.
On a more long term self protection basis I have found a combination of two things has helped me avoid colds and flus for the past several years.
One is to be well tanked up on vitamins B and C and minerals; not just the minimum daily recommendation but the max (if I had the size of that dosage on hand I’d quote it). However, this takes weeks to build up and must be maintained constantly. Starting to take Vitamin C doesn’t do a lot once you already have the cold. If you eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, find out the nutrition amount in what you eat in case you need to top the food up with supplements. Vitamins B and C are water soluble and must be taken every day to maintain the dosage level.
As I understand it vitamins and minerals help strengthen cell walls. Viruses reproduce by cutting through your cell walls and taking over the cell’s reproductive functions to make more of itself, which in turn go out to attack more cells, leading to a population explosion of virus and their chemical wastes in your body. By being inside a body cell the virus is protected from the body’s immune response, which see the cell as a part of the body. By toughening up your cell membranes you stop the virus from breaking through, or at least slows the virus down long enough for a passing white cell to come and destroy the virus while it doesn’t have the protection of the inside of a cell.
The second suggestion is to train everyone in the family to get out of the habit of touching fingers to the face. Studies have shown that most people touch all sorts of things which are contaminated with bugs, then touch their mouths, tongues, eyes or inside their noses, dozens or hundreds of times per day. This passes bugs from the outside world to the nice warm, nutrient-rich environment of the human body. It’s a hard habit to break, but every success is a victory. Also, developing a habit of sanitizing the hands before having to touch the face is good hygienic practice, as well as before touching any food.
The third thing I want to suggest generally is that people who have any contagious disease that can be transmitted by touch or through the air should stay at home until recovered, if that is at all possible. A lot of other people would not get sick world-wide if more people practiced voluntary quarantine, and if sick kids were kept home from school. I know not everyone has the luxury of staying home, but on the other hand no-one is going to appreciate or admire people who insist on “soldiering on bravely” despite their illness if they receive a disease from them. Employers should also be educated that keeping one sick person at home on full pay is cheaper than dozens more having time off from work because of an illness caught from the first sick person who felt they had to go to work because they couldn’t afford to go without the pay.
Finally, when you are out and about be aware of people around you coughing or sneezing, and don’t walk into any space where they have just been. It might merely be an allergy but don’t assume that. Don’t get into a lift/elevator or a car or any confined space if you can avoid it if someone is obviously ill. If you can’t avoid it then sanitize your face, lips, nose and hands (with special attention to the finger tips if you have, say, touched the lift buttons or door handle) as soon as you can.
Bugs Bunny: "I speak softly, but I carry a big stick."
Yosemite Sam: "Oh yeah? Well I speak LOUD! and I carry a BIGGER stick! and I use it, too!" BAM!