Can’t find cold & flu meds? Here’s what you can do

If you’ve come down with a bug this January, you may have noticed the cold and flu medicine shelves at your local pharmacy have been conspicuously bare. Since December, according to Health Canada, more than 60% of Canadian pharmacies have reported they had minimal supply of adult cold and flu meds, and 25% reported that they have none at all.

High demand is typical at this time of year, but mixed with this unprecedented flu season, mixed with a surge of other viral illnesses RSV and COVID, medicines have been flying off the shelf.

Fortunately, infection rates now seem to be on the decline, but many pharmacies are still contending with shortages.

If you find yourself sick, and without access to cold/flu medication, the best thing to do is ask the pharmacist whether they have any other products that might help you feel a little better natural or alternative products, vitamins and supplements, nasal irrigation products, or over-the-counter medications with off-label uses (like Advil or other pain killers).

But otherwise, here are a few tried-and-true ways to get some relief from your symptoms and get better faster.

Get Lots of Fluids

Increasing your fluid intake because it increases your body’s ability to flush toxins from your system. Unless you have a condition that has led your doctor to advise you against over-hydrating (as is the case for some heart conditions), drink as much water as possible — at least eight cups a day.

Hot liquids like tea and soup can also help clear out your sinuses, sooth sore throats, and warm your core temperature, helping your body fight off the infection.

Get More Rest

Your body’s resources should be focused on fighting the infection, and your immune system — one of the body’s most complex systems — needs rest to perform. That means trying to avoid stress and excessive physical exertion for a few days.

Sleep With an Extra Pillow

Of course, congestion can prevent you from getting some much-needed rest. Sleeping with your head slightly elevated can help break up some of the buildup.


Honey has natural antiviral and antimicrobial properties, great for sweetening your tea.

Hot Showers or Baths

This has a decongesting effect, and again, helps keep up your core temperature if you have the chills. Just bear in mind that if you’re feeling weak or dizzy, a hot shower may increase the risk of slipping or falling. Stay safe.

Gargle Salt Water

Salt has anti-bacterial properties and has also been shown to ease the pain and inflammation caused by a sore throat. Mix half a teaspoon with a full cup of warm water and gargle for 30 seconds. Repeat two or three times.

If you’re feeling under the weather, stop the spread by staying home for a few days and washing your hands (or sanitizing) consistently.

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