Flu season isn’t over yet. It still has a few weeks until it ends, and thousands of Americans have been afflicted with the fevers and sneezes that come with this year’s nasty H3N2 strain.

For acute cases, doctors typically recommend bed rest, but what that really means can be confusing to patients. One expert, Daniel Neides, medical director of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic, explains why lying down isn’t always necessary and how cool temperatures and hydration are important factors in kicking the infection.

Why Stay Home?

General practitioners usually suggest severe cold and flu sufferers stay home and spend days in bed. Dr. Neides says when he prescribes bed rest, he is erring on the conservative side to ensure patients aren’t out and about, infecting others and contracting different strains.

“While you’re battling one infection, your immune system is busy and you’re susceptible to other contagions. It’s hard to fight a two-front war,” he says. “The point is to not overtax the system so you can focus your strength to fight the good fight.”

Whether in bed or lounging around at home, it’s important to limit mobility as much as possible so the body can fight the infection. Exercise, or any form of high-intensity activity, is the enemy.

“Patients think that they can ‘sweat it out’ at the gym, but when the body is fighting infection, it needs rest, not exercise,” says Dr. Neides. “And when we exercise, we raise our body temperatures, and plenty of the cold and flu organisms replicate at a faster rate when the body gets hotter.”

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