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Whether it’s a cold, the flu, or a bacterial infection, most illnesses bring telltale symptoms with them. And the earlier you notice those symptoms, the quicker you can do something about them and possibly prevent them from turning into something worse.

Luckily, the most common symptoms of illness usually have some fairly simple and well-known remedies. Knowing what to do when you encounter these symptoms can help you get the jump on taking care of yourself.

The Chills

A change in body temperature can be a warning sign of a virus or bacterial infection. The sudden onset of the chills is a very common initial symptom of influenza (the flu) or a bacterial infection like pneumonia or UTI. Although the chills typically make people feel like they’re cold, they’re actually a sign that the body’s temperature is rising in order to fight off infection. For this reason, it’s best to avoid the urge to cover up with heavy blankets and more layers, as that will raise the body’s temperature.

Shivering, frost brunette woman in sweater, wrapped in duvet sit on sofa and drink hot tea Olga Rolenko/ Getty Images

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A Runny Nose

A runny nose is an extremely common side effect of the body fighting off an infection. Your body is protecting itself by producing extra mucus in an attempt to flush out anything that doesn’t belong there. Staying hydrated is important; your body is losing fluids as the mucus is going out. Drinking plenty of water or hot tea is an excellent way to combat a runny nose.

Shot of a young woman blowing her nose with a tissue at home LaylaBird/ Getty Images

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Congestion

Similarly, a congested or blocked nose is a sign that something is irritating your nose tissues. The congested feeling is the result of the tissues in your nose becoming inflamed and starting to swell in response to something that shouldn't be there. This reaction is sometimes due to allergies, but can also be the result of the flu virus or a cold.

If you have a congested nose, you want to stay hydrated, which will help thin your mucus and ease the congestion. Over-the-counter (OTC) decongestants can also help reduce the swelling and inflammation in your nose's blood vessels and tissues.

Ill woman coughing damircudic/ Getty Images

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Fatigue or Lack of Energy

Fighting off an oncoming illness requires the body to use a lot of energy. The feeling of being fatigued can be a sign from your body that its immune system is gearing itself up to get rid of a virus or an infection. When this happens - take a break! Whether that means taking a nap or just staying home and not doing much, save as much energy as you can and let your immune system do its work.

Fatigue and upset woman touching nose bridge feeling eye strain or headache, trying to relieve pain. brizmaker/ Getty Images

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An Itchy Throat

If you’re noticing pain or irritation in your throat, particularly when you swallow, it could be a sign of strep throat, a bacterial infection. If your scratchy throat is accompanied by other symptoms like fatigue or a stuffy nose, you might be in the initial stages of a viral infection. Either way, gargling with a little salt water can be a helpful way to reduce the swelling in your throat.

Alternatively, drink some warm tea with honey, which has been shown to haveanti-bacterial properties.

A sore throat is a pain, Scratchiness, or irritation, women in red silk nightwear with acid reflux at night, Tharakorn/ Getty Images

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Coughing

Like a runny nose, a cough is often the body’s natural response to an irritant or an infection. When something foreign gets into your airways, the body wants to expel it. A cough can be a sign of the common cold, allergies, or a more serious infection.

If you have a cough, drink plenty of fluids so your mucus will be thinner and easier to cough up. You can also suck on lozenges or hard candy so that your body will produce more saliva.

Sick mature woman with sore throat, standing in living room at home. Catching cold, having cough. Suzi Media Production/ Getty Images

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A Headache

A headache can have many causes, including stress, dehydration, or a sinus infection. If you're experiencing a headache, make sure you're getting plenty of rest and keeping yourself hydrated. Sometimes turning off the light and sitting or lying in the dark can reduce your pain as well. OTC medicine like aspirin is also a proven way to reduce the pain from a headache.

A young woman is sitting on the sofa at home with her head in her hands. Ekaterina Goncharova/ Getty Images

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Common Treatments for Almost Any Symptom

The treatments for many of the most common symptoms may be starting to sound similar by now. That's because the best ways to take care of your body when you're starting to get sick are often the simplest.

Get plenty of rest; there is clear research showing that getting enough sleep is a crucial part of staying healthy. Make sure you're staying hydrated; having enough fluids in your body will help your body flush out whatever is ailing you.

Consume hot food and drinks; both chicken noodle soup and ginger tea have anti-inflammatory properties. For adults, you can also try OTC medicines to reduce congestion, coughing, and mild pain. These medicines won't prevent you from getting sick, but they may offer some relief from your symptoms.

Cropped shot of a young woman lying on her bed with her eyes closed Delmaine Donson/ Getty Images

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When to See a Doctor

If your efforts to control your symptoms don't work after a few days, it might be time to see a healthcare provider. For example, if you have a fever that has lasted for more than three days, your symptoms have been getting progressively worse, or your symptoms have returned after going away, reach out to your doctor.

female listening carefully to advice and recommendations of doctor. Healthcare consultation and examination in medical clinic office. Natalia Gdovskaia/ Getty Images

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.