In this Article
- #1 Know When not to Treat Symptoms
- #2 Blow Your Nose Often (and the Right Way)
- #3 Treat That Stuffy Nose With Warm Salt Water
- #4 Stay Warm and Rested
- #5 Gargle
- #6 Drink Hot Liquids
- #7 Take a Steamy Shower
- #8 Use a Salve Under Your Nose
- #9 Apply Hot or Cold Packs Around Your Congested Sinuses
- #10 Sleep With an Extra Pillow Under Your Head
- #11 Don’t Fly Unless Necessary
- #12 Eat Infection-Fighting Foods
Looking for a natural or alternative treatment for your cold or flu symptoms? Here are tips that may help relieve your symptoms.
#1 Know When not to Treat Symptoms
Believe it or not, those annoying symptoms you’re experiencing are part of the natural healing process — evidence that the immune system is battling illness. For instance, a fever is your body’s way of trying to kill viruses by creating a hotter-than-normal environment. Also, a fever’s hot environment makes germ-killing proteins in your blood circulate more quickly and effectively. Thus, if you endure a moderate fever for a day or two, you may actually get well faster. Coughing is another productive symptom; it clears your breathing passages of thick mucus that can carry germs to your lungs and the rest of your body. Even that stuffy nose is best treated mildly or not at all. A decongestant, like Sudafed, restricts flow to the blood vessels in your nose and throat. But often you want the increase blood flow because it warms the infected area and helps secretions carry germs out of your body.
#2 Blow Your Nose Often (and the Right Way)
It’s important to blow your nose regularly when you have a cold rather than sniffling mucus back into your head. But when you blow hard, pressure can carry germ-carrying phlegm back into your ear passages, causing earache. The best way to blow your nose: Press a finger over one nostril while you blow gently to clear the other.
#3 Treat That Stuffy Nose With Warm Salt Water
Salt-water rinsing helps break nasal congestion, while also removing virus particles and bacteria from your nose. Here’s a popular recipe:
Mix 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda in 8 ounces of distilled, sterile or previously boiled water. Use a bulb syringe or nasal irrigation kit to squirt water into the nose. Hold one nostril closed by applying light finger pressure while squirting the salt mixture into the other nostril. Let it drain. Repeat two to three times, then treat the other nostril.
#4 Stay Warm and Rested
Staying warm and resting when you first come down with a cold or the flu helps your body direct its energy toward the immune battle. This battle taxes the body. So give it a little help by resting.
Gargling can moisten a sore throat and bring temporary relief. Gargle with half a teaspoon of salt dissolved in 8 ounces warm water, four times daily.
To reduce the tickle in your throat, try an astringent gargle — such as tea that contains tannin — to tighten the membranes. Or use a thick, viscous gargle made with honey or honey and apple cider vinegar. Seep one tablespoon of raspberry leaves or lemon juice in two cups of hot water; mix with one teaspoon of honey. Let the mixture cool to room temperature before gargling.
#6 Drink Hot Liquids
Hot liquids relieve nasal congestion, prevent dehydration, and soothe the uncomfortably inflamed membranes that line your nose and throat. If you’re so congested that you can’t sleep at night, try a hot toddy, an age-old remedy. Make a cup of hot herbal tea. Add one teaspoon of honey and one small shot (about 1 ounce) of whiskey or bourbon. Limit yourself to one. Too much alcohol will inflame the membranes and make you feel worse.
#7 Take a Steamy Shower
Steamy showers moisturize your nasal passages and may help you relax. If you’re dizzy from the flu, run a steamy shower while you sit on a chair nearby and take a sponge bath.
#8 Use a Salve Under Your Nose
A small dab of mentholated salve under your nose can help to open breathing passages and restore the irritated skin at the base of the nose. Menthol, eucalyptus, and camphor all have mild numbing ingredients that may help relieve the pain of a nose rubbed raw. However, only put it on the outside, under your nose, not inside your nose.
#9 Apply Hot or Cold Packs Around Your Congested Sinuses
Either temperature works. You can buy reusable hot or cold packs at a drugstore or make your own. You can apply heat by taking a damp washcloth and heating it for 55 seconds in a microwave (test the temperature first to make sure it’s not too hot.) A small bag of frozen peas works well as a cold pack.
#10 Sleep With an Extra Pillow Under Your Head
Elevating your head will help relieve congested nasal passages. If the angle is too awkward, try placing the pillows between the mattress and the box springs to create a more gradual slope.
#11 Don’t Fly Unless Necessary
There’s no point adding stress to your already stressed-out upper respiratory system, and that’s what the change in air pressure will do. Flying with cold or flu congestion can temporarily damage your eardrums as a result of pressure changes during takeoff and landing. If you must fly, use a decongestant and carry a nasal spray with you to use just before takeoff and landing. Chewing gum and swallowing frequently can also help relieve pressure.
#12 Eat Infection-Fighting Foods
Here are some good foods to eat when you’re battling a cold or flu:
- Bananas and rice to soothe an upset stomach and curb diarrhea
- Vitamin C-containing foods like bell peppers
- Blueberries curb diarrhea and are high in natural aspirin, which may lower fevers and help with aches and pains
- Carrots, which contain beta-carotene
- Chili peppers may open sinuses, and help break up mucus in the lungs
- Cranberries may help prevent bacteria from sticking to cells lining the bladder and urinary tract
- Mustard or horseradish may helps break up mucus in air passages
- Onions contain phytochemicals purported to help the body clear bronchitis and other infections
- Black and green tea contain catechin, a phytochemical purported to have natural antibiotic and anti-diarrhea effects
Remember, serious conditions, such as sinus infections, bronchitis, meningitis, strep throat, and asthma, can look like the common cold. If you have severe symptoms, or don’t seem to be getting better, call your doctor.
Charles B. Inlander, president of The People’s Medical Society, a nonprofit consumer health advocacy organization, and author of 77 Ways to Beat Cold and Flu.
At the first sign of cold symptoms, you may look to stock up on any number of remedies. But what actually works? While there is no cure for the common cold, there are some proven ways to treat your symptoms. Here’s a guide to what works and what to avoid.
Stay hydrated. Whether its tea, warm water with lemon or broth, drinking warm liquids can be soothing, prevent dehydration and ease congestion. Avoid salty foods, alcohol, coffee and sugary drinks, which can be dehydrating. Ice chips are another simple way to stay hydrated and calm a scratchy throat.
Gargle with salt water. A saltwater gargle with about 1 teaspoon of salt per cup of warm water can help reduce the pain and swelling of a sore throat.
Over-the-counter medications : Over-the-counter decongestants, antihistamines and pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can reduce some cold symptoms. Children younger than 6 should not use over-the-counter medications. Talk to your doctor for more details.
Humidify the air . Cold air holds less moisture than warm air. Dry nostrils are more prone to viruses, and if you’re already sick, dry air can worsen a sore throat. Try using a humidifier. If you don’t have one, leave a shallow bowl of water out, particularly near a heat source. As the water evaporates, it’ll slowly humidify the room.
Rest : This is the time to recharge your body’s immune system. Rest and sleep are the best ways to do that. Make sure you’re sleeping between eight to 10 hours at night. This is also a great chance to take a break from strenuous exercise for two to three days.
What to Avoid
Zinc. There’s little evidence to support zinc’s cold-fighting reputation.
Antibiotics. Antibiotics are designed to treat bacterial infections, not viruses.
Vitamin C . At the first sign of cold symptoms, many people turn to vitamin C. However, there’s little evidence that it has an effect on the cold virus. While some studies suggest regular intake of vitamin C can help reduce the duration of cold symptoms, it has no effect if taken after you have cold symptoms.
Smoking . Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke can further irritate your nose, throat and lungs.
- Medical Author: Dr. Anita Dhanorkar, BHMS
- Medical Reviewer: Pallavi Suyog Uttekar, MD
Cold symptoms are part of your body’s healing processes. Most of the time, it does not require any help. However, you can get rid of a cold faster, even overnight, with the following simple measures:
- Stay at home: Staying at home when you are sick will restore your energy and protect others from getting infected. Do not fly unless it is extremely necessary. If you must fly, use some over-the-counter (OTC) decongestants and carry a nasal spray. Take all the social distancing precautions. A few hours of bed rest can do wonders for your body.
- Drink plenty of hot fluids: Hot drinks or a cup of hot herbal tea can make you feel better. Hot liquids may relieve your nasal congestion, prevent dehydration and soothe discomfort due to a sore throat. Try sipping herbal tea, lemon water, or warm broth. Soups, especially chicken soup, may help thin mucus and relieve aches and congestion. Try to take a hot drink before going to bed if you can’t sleep at night. Add a spoonful of honey to your herbal or lemon tea to help you sleep soundly and relieve your cough. However, avoid giving honey to a baby younger than one-year-old. Drinking hot fluids may loosen mucus and reduce nasal congestion. It also can help with headaches and fatigue. Keep a glass or bottle handy and refill it with water.
- Sleep: It will recharge your body. Insufficient sleep may weaken your immunity. It is one of the best medicines for a cold. Go to bed early and take naps during the day until you feel better. Place extra pillows under your head to ease sinus pressure and help you breathe more easily. Prop yourself up with pillows to help relieve a cough.
- Gargle with warm salt water: Gargling will moisten your throat and may provide temporary relief. Gargle with half a teaspoon of salt dissolved in one cup of warm water a few times a day. It will soothe your sore throat and ease the throat swelling.
- Blow your nose: Blowing your nose gently in the right way may help clear a stuffy nose. However, avoid blowing it hard.
- Take a hot steamy shower: Moisture in the air can ease your breathing. The stream can moisten your scratchy sore throat and reduce stuffy nasal congestion. Therefore, a hot shower may provide you with much relief and relax your muscles.
- Humidifier: A good humidifier may help add moisture to the air and soothe your dry sinuses.
- OTC medicines: These may help to ease your symptoms, but they will not make your cold go away any faster. Moreover, you must consult your pediatrician before giving any OTC medicine to a child under the age of six years old. You can take the following OTC medicines.
- Pain relievers: You can take acetaminophen for your fever and aches. If you are taking any cold medicine, then you must check whether it already contains the pain reliever along with cold medications. Consult your doctor if you are confused. It can be dangerous if you are getting the same ingredient in different remedies. Therefore, read the label carefully and avoid a combination of medicines.
- Lozenges: Lozenges may soothe your throat soreness for some time. Avoid lozenges in kids younger than five years old.
- Decongestant: Use a decongestant to relieve nasal and airway stuffiness. It shrinks nasal blood vessels and opens up your airway. However, using too much decongestant may worsen the congestion; therefore, avoid using it for more than three days.
- Antihistamines: These can dry up your runny nose. These drugs block the chemical that causes sneezing and sniffling. Cetirizine is one example. Antihistamines along with decongestants may help you more.
- Expectorant: If you have mucus in your lungs, taking an expectorant may help loosen it. However, consult your pediatrician before giving it to your child or if you are asthmatic.
- Mentholated salve: Use small dabs of salve containing menthol, eucalyptus, and camphor to help to relieve a stuffy nose. However, apply it only on the outside and avoid putting it inside the nose.
- Avoid antibiotics: Antibiotics may not help if you have a viral infection. It may make it harder for your body to fight future bacterial infections if you are taking them unnecessarily.
Why do you catch a cold?
There are many different respiratory viruses, bacteria, and other germs that can cause common cold or nasopharyngitis. Each year, one billion people in the United States get sick with a cold.
More than 200 different viruses are known to cause the common cold. Rhinoviruses are the most common reason behind viral colds. Coronavirus (COVID-19) has impacted human life and has turned fatal for some people. Other viruses that can cause a cold include a respiratory syncytial virus, human parainfluenza viruses, adenovirus, and human metapneumovirus. These flu viruses, bacteria, and other germs can be everywhere and anywhere in our environment. Touching doorknobs and infected surfaces, shaking hands with sick people, and constantly visiting crowded places may spread the infection.
Mostly, people get colds in the winter and spring, but some may get them any time of the year. It may give you a sore throat, runny nose, headache, body aches, and cough, or sometimes a fever. These annoying symptoms are part of the natural healing process of the immune system. Mostly, these signs disappear within 7 to 10 days. However, if you have weak immunity, asthma, or another respiratory condition, you may require help to recover.
When should you see your doctor?
See your doctor if:
- Your symptoms last more than 10 days.
- Your symptoms are unusual and more severe.
- Your baby who is younger than three months of age has fever and lethargy.
- You or your baby has serious conditions or flu complications that may look like just a common cold but are not getting better.
- You are an adult who is 65 years or older.
- You are pregnant.
- You have a certain medical condition such as strep throat, sinus infection, bronchitis, asthma, diabetes, or heart disease.
Your doctor will evaluate you or your baby’s condition and recommend treatment accordingly.
How can you prevent yourself from getting a cold?
- Some hygiene measures can help protect you against getting these infections such as frequent hand washing, maintaining social distance in crowds, staying away from people who are sick, covering your face while sneezing or coughing, avoiding contact with sick people, and not touching your face.
- Eating a healthy diet may improve your immunity and help you get well soon. Fruits and vegetables that are rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin D, zinc, and antioxidants can boost your immunity.
- Adopt a daily routine exercise, which can also boost your immunity.
- Maintaining a good healthy weight is also beneficial for your immunity. People with excess weight may have an increased risk of infections due to low immunity.
In the future, there will be vaccines for rhinovirus, coronavirus, and flu viruses. However, as of now, there is no vaccine to protect you against the common cold.
You can often treat a cold without seeing a GP. You should begin to feel better in about 1 to 2 weeks.
Check if you have a cold
Cold symptoms come on gradually and can include:
- a blocked or runny nose
- a sore throat
- muscle aches
- a raised temperature
- pressure in your ears and face
- loss of taste and smell
The symptoms are the same in adults and children. Sometimes symptoms last longer in children.
Telling the difference between cold and flu
Cold and flu symptoms are similar, but flu tends to be more severe.
|Appears gradually||Appears quickly within a few hours|
|Affects mainly your nose and throat||Affects more than just your nose and throat|
|Makes you feel unwell, but you’re OK to carry on as normal (for example, go to work)||Makes you feel exhausted and too unwell to carry on as normal|
How you can treat a cold yourself
To help you get better more quickly:
- rest and sleep
- drink plenty of water (fruit juice or squash mixed with water is OK) to avoid dehydration
- gargle salt water to soothe a sore throat (not suitable for children)
If you have a high temperature or you do not feel well enough to do your normal activities, try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people until you feel better.
A pharmacist can help with cold medicines
You can buy cough and cold medicines from pharmacies or supermarkets. A pharmacist can advise you on the best medicine.
- ease aches or lower a temperature with painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen
- relieve a blocked nose with decongestant sprays or tablets
Decongestants should not be given to children under 6. Children aged 6 to 12 should take them for no longer than 5 days.
Be careful not to use cough and cold medicines if you’re taking paracetamol and ibuprofen tablets. Cough and cold medicines often also contain paracetamol and ibuprofen so it can be easy to take more than the recommended dose.
Some are not suitable for children, babies and pregnant women.
There’s little evidence that supplements (such as vitamin C, echinacea or garlic) prevent colds or speed up recovery.
Call a pharmacy or contact them online before going in person. You can get medicines delivered or ask someone to collect them.
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- your symptoms do not improve after 3 weeks
- your symptoms get suddenly worse
- your temperature is very high or you feel hot and shivery
- you’re concerned about your child’s symptoms
- you’re feeling short of breath or develop chest pain
- you have a long-term medical condition – for example, diabetes, or a heart, lung or kidney condition
- you have a weakened immune system – for example, because you’re having chemotherapy
GPs do not recommend antibiotics for colds because they will not relieve your symptoms or speed up your recovery.
Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections, and colds are caused by viruses.
How to avoid spreading a cold
Colds are caused by viruses and easily spread to other people. You’re infectious until all your symptoms have gone. This usually takes 1 to 2 weeks.
Colds are spread by germs from coughs and sneezes, which can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours.
To reduce the risk of spreading a cold:
- wash your hands often with warm water and soap
- use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze
- bin used tissues as quickly as possible
How to prevent catching a cold
A person with a cold can start spreading it from a few days before their symptoms begin until the symptoms have finished.
The best ways to avoid catching a cold are:
- washing your hands with warm water and soap
- not sharing towels or household items (like cups) with someone who has a cold
- not touching your eyes or nose in case you have come into contact with the virus – it can infect the body this way
- staying fit and healthy
The flu vaccine helps prevent flu but not colds.
See how to wash your hands correctly
Video: How to wash your hands
Watch this video to find out the best way to wash your hands.
Page last reviewed: 04 February 2021
Next review due: 04 February 2024
We still don’t have a cure for the common cold, but there are ways to relieve symptoms like cough, sore throat, and congestion.
Home remedies like gargling salt water and using a humidifier can help ease your symptoms while your immune system fights off the virus.
Here are 12 things you can do to relieve cold symptoms and feel better.
1. Drink plenty of fluids
When your airways are inflamed by a cold, they produce more mucus, which can become thick and hard to cough up.
“Keeping well hydrated helps prevent drying and thickening of the mucus,” says Norman Edelman, MD, a professor of medicine and public health at Stony Brook University.
You also lose some water each time you blow your nose. “And you need to replace the fluid you’re blowing into all those tissues,” says Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD, a professor of pharmacology and physiology at Georgetown University.
While you have a cold, try to drink about eight 8 oz cups of water per day.
2. Get enough sleep
Missing out on sleep can weaken your immune system, which may make it harder for your body to fight off infections. Try to get between seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
If you’re stuffy, and having trouble falling asleep, it may help to lie on your back with your head propped up with an extra pillow. This can also help to drain mucus from your sinuses while you sleep.
A 2009 study found that people who slept less than seven hours per night were nearly three times more likely to get sick after researchers exposed them to a cold virus, compared with people who slept more than eight hours.
3. Use saline drops
The congestion you feel during a cold is often caused by especially thick or dried out mucus in your sinus and nasal passages. This makes it harder to blow your nose and gives you that stuffed up feeling.
Washing your nasal passages with saline solution can help thin out and moisten mucus, making it easier to clear out.
You can find saline nose drops at most pharmacies, as well as a squeeze bottle or a neti pot to get the saline up into your nasal passage.
To use saline from a squeeze bottle or neti pot, follow these steps:
- Fill the bottle or pot with the saline solution.
- Insert the bottle or pot into one nostril.
- Gently squeeze or pour the saline backward into that nostril.
- The saline should drain out of the other nostril or your mouth.
- Repeat with the other nostril.
- Gently blow your nose after finishing.
4. Gargle salt water
If you have a swollen, sore throat, you can try gargling salt water to relieve the pain.
“Salt water draws out water from the inflamed throat, relieving the pressure in the lining and thus reducing the feeling of soreness,” says Edelman.
To do a saltwater gargle, follow these steps:
- Mix half a teaspoon of salt into eight ounces of warm water.
- Tilt your head back and gargle the water, making sure not to swallow it.
5. Take pain relievers
Colds often cause headaches, particularly if you’re very congested. Taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen can help ease the pain.
If you develop a fever, it’s best to take acetaminophen, which acts as both a pain reliever and fever reducer.
6. Take a spoonful of honey
Your esophagus may become irritated when you have a cold — this irritation can trigger a reflex that stimulates the muscles in your airway to make you cough, Edelman says.
Eating a spoonful of honey or drinking warm lemon water mixed with honey can help soothe this irritation and calm your urge to cough.
7. Use a humidifier
“Most colds occur in fall and winter, when humidity is low,” Fugh-Berman says. This can dry out the mucus membranes in your sinuses.
Using a humidifier may help ease congestion. “Humidifying the air breathed in helps thin out mucus, making it easier to cough up,” Edelman says.
8. Sip warm liquids
Drinking warm liquids like broth or tea may help relieve symptoms like sore throat and make your nose feel less stuffy.
But if you’re drinking tea, make sure to choose a non-caffeinated option like a decaf or herbal tea, as caffeine can dehydrate you.
9. Take over the counter medications
If natural remedies aren’t working for you, try over the counter drugs to help relieve certain cold symptoms:
- Cough: Cough suppressants like dextromethorphan (Robitussin) can help by decreasing activity in the area of your brain that triggers coughing.
- Congestion:Decongestants like oxymetazoline (Vicks nasal spray) or pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) can help by shrinking the blood vessels in your nasal passages. Your nasal passages become inflamed when you have a cold, making it harder to breathe and causing a stuffy feeling, so by reducing the inflammation you may find relief.
10. Take echinacea
Echinacea is an herb that may help treat cold symptoms because it has antiviral properties and can help reduce pain and inflammation.
Research is conflicted on whether echinacea can help with colds, but some studies suggest that it can shorten the length of a cold by 1.5 days.
Experts recommend taking tablets with 4,000 mg per day while you have a cold. You can also take up to 10 ml of a liquid extract.
11. Take vitamin C
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that can help boost your immune system by increasing the production of certain immune cells.
A 2016 review of seven studies found some evidence that taking vitamin C supplements can help reduce the length and severity of a cold, though the researchers note that more studies are still needed.
The researchers advise that if you want to try vitamin C, you should take 8 mg daily for at least five days, starting within 24 hours of your first symptoms.
12. Take zinc lozenges
Zinc is a mineral that may help fight off the rhinovirus that causes many colds by stopping the virus from multiplying and keeping it from lodging in your nose and throat.
A 2015 review of three studies found that taking daily zinc lozenges reduced the length of cold symptoms like muscle aches, cough, and congestion.
The researchers suggest taking 80 mg per day of zinc acetate in lozenge form while you have a cold. For best results, it’s best to start within 24 hours of your symptoms starting.
Note: Though the researchers mention that 80 mg of zinc is unlikely to cause adverse side effects, the recommended daily allowance for zinc is 11 mg a day for men and 8 mg for women.
Cold symptoms can be uncomfortable, but there are many at-home remedies you can try to help ease the pain.
Methods like using saline solution, taking zinc lozenges, and taking a spoonful of honey can all help you feel better and possibly heal faster.
If your symptoms last longer than a week or become severe, reach out to your doctor for treatment.
We may receive a commission when you buy through our links, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.
Lindsey Metrus is the associate general manager at Byrdie and has been with the brand since 2015. Her work also appears in BuzzFeed, StyleCaster, and Yahoo.
Swiner is a family medicine/general medicine expert, covering a broad spectrum of both medical and mental health issues. She loves taking care of the family as a whole—from the cradle to the grave. Her interests include Minority Health, Women’s Health and Pediatrics. As a wife and mother of two, she uses real-life experiences to clearly communicate keys to better health and wellness for mind, body and spirit. She is the author of How to Avoid the Superwoman Complex.
Stocksy / Design by Camden Dechert
We know that moment all too well. Our throat starts to get scratchy, our nasal cavities tingle, a throbbing pain takes up residence in between our temples. It’s official: A cold is brewing.
When the seasons change, we’re constantly reminded of the impending doom of a cold with each sneeze, sniffle, and dreaded nose-blow we hear. And while we do our best to keep our immune systems strong and on the defense, sometimes a cold wiggles its way in and is too big for our britches (er, body) to stave off.
We asked the experts for advice on how to ease cold symptoms so that you can get back to your regularly scheduled programming. Read on for their tips.
Watch Now: 3 Natural Remedies to Get Rid of a Cold
We all know that vitamin C is the ultimate immune-boosting vitamin; Forrelli says to aim for 500 to 1000 milligrams of vitamin C per day while fighting off sniffles. But another cold-fighting powerhouse to get on your radar is beta-glucan: Studies indicate it can help prevent and manage recurrent respiratory infections in children and adults.
What Is Beta-Glucan?
Beta-Glucan is a large molecule made up of smaller sugar molecules. It’s typically found in yeast and grains. This soluble fiber is said to help lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar, and boost immunity.
Eat Chicken Soup
Yeah, yeah. We’ve all been told to have a bowl of chicken soup when we’re sick—it’s good for the soul, as they say. But there’s actually science behind why it works: Cysteine is a powerful antioxidant found in chicken soup (it’s released from chicken during cooking) and actually chemically resembles the bronchitis medication acetylcysteine. The protein and minerals from the chicken (white meat—dark is a bit too fatty), also help boost your immune system while the salty broth helps to thin mucus. It’s truly a healing miracle food—no wonder bone broth is so on trend.
Aside from just fueling your body with water to stay hydrated, drinking plenty of fluids keeps your throat and passages lubricated, according to Amanda Carney, director of health coaching at The Well.
While Alex Caspero, head nutritionist at Hum Nutrition, adds that hot beverages are a must, too: “Hot liquids, like tea, relieve nasal congestion and can soothe the inflamed tissue that lines your nose and throat. If you’re feeling queasy, grate in some fresh ginger to help calm an upset stomach.” Inhaling the steam from the drink also stimulates your cilia (the little hair-like structures in your nose and trachea) to sweep germs out.
Drink Apple Cider Vinegar
In addition to relieving bloating, boosting energy, and clearing acne, apple cider vinegar can help soothe and get rid of sore throats. (Though its important to note that some sore throats can be worsened by ACV, so make sure to consult with your doctor first).
Try diluting a tablespoon or two in a glass of water, or dress your salad with it. You can also forego it in liquid form altogether and take an ACV supplement.
Use a Saline Spray
You probably don’t think to use a nasal irrigation product until the congestion has already hit. But according to Shilpi Agarwal, MD, since the nose and mouth are the first barriers of entry for cold viruses, you’ll want to keep them moist all winter long. “By using nasal saline, it provides moisture, which can then help improve the nasal passages’ ability to fight infection. Dry air ultimately dries out the nasal passages and lets more viruses in.”
Wear Wet Socks (Seriously)
When Forrelli also suggested the “wet sock” method to cure a cold, I thought either A) she was joking or B) she’s clearly never stepped in a puddle and had her shoe fill up with water (which is my personal nightmare). However, this method, which is also known as “warming socks,” is thought to work with your body’s natural physiology to improve colds, headaches, and insomnia. The idea is that when you place the wet socks on your feet, the cool temperature causes blood to flow away from the skin and back into the feet to warm them up.
This form of “microcirculation” performs exactly what regular blood flow does, bringing nutrients in and toxins out. However, doing this in a small area like your feet, in such a quick amount of time, rather than getting your heart rate up, pulls blood into the skin and away from areas of pain and swelling (like stuffed sinuses). There is no clinical evidence to support this methodology, so while proponents of this trick find it useful for remedying their cold symptoms, don’t count it as your first line of defense. In order to do this, first, warm your feet (placing them in a hot bath works), wring out a pair of cold wet socks in the sink, and immediately place them on your feet.
Put dry socks (or plastic baggies) on over the wet socks, so you can cuddle up in bed.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting adequate sleep feels like such a luxury these days, but it’s so crucial to maintaining proper health. “Sleep is really underrated for cold virus treatment,” says Agarwal, “But the truth is, when we go to sleep, our immune system is boosted, and this is the time where, on a cellular level, the body focuses on fighting infections. Do everything you can to sleep more, even if that means sleeping at an angle to reduce nasal congestion or using a eucalyptus or menthol diffuser to help you breathe.”
Vitamin C has been studied as a possible treatment for colds for many years, but research findings have been inconsistent.
Yes, staying hydrated will help break up mucus and help with decongestion, as well as soothe sore throats.
Vetvicka V, Vannucci L, Sima P, Richter J. Beta Glucan: Supplement or Drug? From Laboratory to Clinical Trials. Molecules. 2019 Mar 30;24(7):1251. doi: 10.3390/molecules24071251.
Clemente Plaza N, Reig García-Galbis M, Martínez-Espinosa RM. Effects of the Usage of l-Cysteine (l-Cys) on Human Health. Molecules. 2018 Mar 3;23(3):575. doi: 10.3390/molecules23030575
Brown LK, Miller A, Miller E. Chicken Soup for the Treatment of Respiratory Infections. Chest. 2020 Nov;158(5):2231-2232. doi: 10.1016/j.chest.2020.06.062
Hemilä H, Chalker E. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jan 31;2013(1):CD000980. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4.
Colds suck. Here’s how to get rid of them.
So you have a scratchy throat, a cough, a headache, and your Covid test comes back negative. What do you do about getting rid of the common cold you just caught?
While other scientific advances seem to be speeding ahead, researchers haven’t yet been able to find a cure for the common cold. But that doesn’t mean you have to sit around feeling miserable.
In the seven to ten days it takes your body to fully recover, there’s a lot that you can do to stop the misery in its tracks and help relieve the classic and uncomfortable symptoms of a cold—you know, the runny nose or congestion, the scratchy throat, the annoying headache. One way is to make a stop at the jam-packed cold and flu aisle at the drugstore. There, you can find some good remedies to help you stop that cold from making you feel so bad.
But other remedies that relieve cold symptoms may be as close as your own kitchen. Or desk chair or sofa cushion. There’s actual scientific evidence on classic home remedies like chicken soup. And there’s now even a hint that old-is-new-again strategies like meditation could even help you be more resistant to getting a cold in the first place.
Some of these legitimate remedies may even help speed up your recovery time. It’s not the same thing as a cure, but it’s a lot better than being miserable. And strategies such as getting enough sleep and keeping up your hand washing game may help stop cold viruses in their tracks in the first place.
So the next time you come down with a cold, use these tips to battle it and get back on your feet.
1) Have hot tea or chicken soup.
Or really, just have any hot liquid. There’s a reason people always tell you to drink tea or have chicken soup. “Hot liquids increase your mucociliary clearance rate,” explains Bruce Barrett, M.D., professor in the department of family medicine and community health at University of Wisconsin – Madison. You have little hairs (cilia) in your respiratory tract that help sweep mucus from the bottom of your lungs all the way up to the front of the nose, he explains. “Hot fluids increase that activity,” he says. “They actually measure it by putting a small amount of dye in the back of the throat and measuring how long it takes to go through the end of the nose.” Some research suggested chicken soup might do it better than other liquids. “I’m unconvinced,” says Dr. Barrett, although he says that if you like chicken soup and it makes you feel good, have it. (Find out more about feeding a cold here.)
2) Gargle with salt water.
Gargling with salt water a few times a day during cold and flu season may help with swelling and loosening of the mucus. Mix and dissolve about one-half teaspoon of salt in warm water and gargle a few times a day.
3) Take a steamy shower.
The steam from a hot shower can moisten your sinus passages and throat as well as help loosen congestion. This also helps to relax your achy muscles.
4) Relieve stress; maybe even meditate.
“When you’re under stress, your immune system ends up under-reacting to viral and bacterial infections,” says Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, M.D., internist and past president of the American College of Physicians. Perhaps that’s why a study conducted by Dr. Barrett and colleagues, published in PLoS One found that mindfulness meditation training reduced the incidence, duration, and severity of their colds. That doesn’t mean you can meditate a cold away in just one sitting session—study participants had 8 weeks of training. But it does suggest that making meditation routine could help you avoid getting sick. The study also looked at exercise, by the way, and found that people who did regular exercise were also less likely to get colds. (If you have a cold, here’s what to do about exercise while you’re down.)
5) Consider zinc.
Many people swear that zinc, usually in lozenge form like Cold-Eeze and Zicam, reduce a cold’s symptoms and severity, especially if you take them within the first day or two of your cold. “There’s no definite proof, but it looks like it probably does,” Dr. Barrett says.
6) Try echinacea.
The research on whether or not this herb can prevent onset of a cold or help you get over one faster goes back and forth. Dr. Barett didn’t find definitive evidence, either, but he did discover something interesting in his research. His group gave either placebos or echinacea to some people, and no pills to others. Then, they watched to see who got colds.People who had some positive experience with echinacea—they’d taken it before and thought it worked—and who received pills, had colds that were about 2.5 days shorter than people who didn’t get any pills. It didn’t matter whether the pill actually had echinacea in it or not. “There’s a very strong placebo effect with colds,” Dr. Barrett says. That means if you think echinacea (or another harmless remedy like chicken soup) works, go for it.
7) Consider OTCs.
Colds famously come with headaches, and a simple pain reliever should help alleviate those. Antihistamines can work for colds, too, if you take older generation ones, like Benadryl. “They do reduce mucus secretion,” says Dr. Barrett. “And for a lot of people, they provide a little sedation.” Which can be welcome when you’re too stuffy to sleep and too exhausted not to want to. “I don’t really recommend them, but if people want to take them, it’s fine,” says Dr. Barrett. Just beware: the new, non-sedating antihistamines won’t work at all.
And please don’t ask for antibiotics. They don’t help with colds and have the potential to make antibiotic resistance worse for everyone. (Find out more about the antibiotic resistance crisis here.) When you’re suffering, you want anything that can work, we know. Turn to Netflix. Beg someone to make you chicken soup. Anything. But just don’t go the antibiotics route.
8) Eat the right foods.
That’s always good advice. But there may be something to healthy foods’ ability to prevent a cold in the first place. “If a person has certain healthy habits, the immune system in general is stronger,” says Sharon Bergquist, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at Emory University. “Gut bacterial balance is a key part of your immune system,” she says. So you want to feed your good bacteria what they like to eat; that’s the category of foods considered to be “prebiotics.” Like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. What they have in common is fiber. “All prebiotics are fiber, but not all fiber is prebiotics,” she says. But if you load up on the foods above, you’ll get the type of fiber your gut bacteria likes.
9) Get enough sleep.
Getting enough sleep is critical to keeping your immune system strong, which you will need to fight germs and ward off a cold faster. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who slept less than 7 hours a night were three times more susceptible to colds than those who slept 8 or more hours per night.
10) Wash your hands.
We know you know. But really, you’ve got to keep it up, because it works to protect from the spread of colds. Soap and water is perfectly fine; these dislodge and wash away germs. Hot water feels great, but if you’re in a place where there’s none around, don’t worry: research from Rutgers University found no difference in cleaning power when water was 60 (cold), 80 (warmish), or 100 degrees. But time does matter. The longer you scrub, the fewer the germs.
- How Do You Get a Cold?
- What Causes a Cold?
- How Is a Cold Diagnosed?
- Cold Treatments & Home Remedies
- What Is the Treatment for a Cold?
- What Are the Four Stages of a Cold? Topic Guide
The common cold is a mild upper respiratory infection caused by viruses. Common colds are the most frequent acute illness in the U.S. and the industrialized world, and occur more frequently in winter and spring, but they can occur any time of year.
Common Cold Symptoms and Duration
A cold usually lasts about 7 to 10 days, but some symptoms, especially runny and stuffy nose and cough, can last for up to 2 weeks. A cold usually progresses through certain stages. The stages of a cold include four stages, as described in the table below.
Stage 2: Appearance and progression of symptoms
Stage 3: Remission
What Causes a Cold?
More than 200 viruses are known to cause the common cold, but the most common type are rhinoviruses. Adenoviruses and enteroviruses are other common viruses that can cause the common cold.
Risk factors for catching a cold include:
- Close contact with someone who has a cold
- Season: certain viruses are more common during certain times of year
- Age: infants and young children have more colds each year than adults
How Is a Cold Diagnosed?
The common cold is diagnosed based upon a history of the patient’s reported symptoms and a physical examination.
Testing is not usually needed to diagnose a common cold.
Tests may be used to rule out other infections that cause similar symptoms to the common cold:
- Nasal swab testing for coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
- Rapid influenza diagnostic tests (RIDTs) or rapid molecular assays for the flu (influenza)
- Chest X-rays for lower respiratory tract infection
What Is the Treatment for a Cold?
There is no cure for the common cold. Antibiotics do not help treat colds caused by viruses.
Home remedies are usually used to help relieve symptoms of the common cold, such as:
- Drink plenty of fluids
- A humidifier or cool mist vaporizer to moisturize the air
- Breathe in steam from a bowl of hot water or shower
- Saline nasal spray or drops to moisten nasal passages
- Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to relieve symptoms
- Pain relievers and fever reducers such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- Do not give aspirin to children because it can cause Reye’s syndrome, a rare but serious illness
- Cough and cold medicines
- Pain relievers and fever reducers such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- Lozenges to relieve sore throat (do not give lozenges to young children as they can be a choking hazard)
What Is a Cold?
The common cold is a contagious viral infection of the upper respiratory tract.
Most adults catch a cold from time to time, but kids can get eight colds per year or more. They’re the top reason kids visit the doctor and miss school.
What Causes a Cold?
Most colds are caused by rhinoviruses carried in invisible droplets in the air or on things we touch. These viruses can get into the protective lining of the nose and throat, setting off an immune system reaction that can cause a sore throat, headache, and trouble breathing through the nose.
Dry air — indoors or outside — can lower resistance to infection by the viruses that cause colds. So can being a smoker or being around someone who smokes. Smokers are more likely to catch a cold than people who don’t smoke, and their symptoms probably will be worse and last longer, and can even lead to bronchitis or pneumonia.
But despite some old wives’ tales, not wearing a jacket or sweater when it’s chilly, sitting or sleeping in a draft, and going outside while your hair’s wet do not cause colds.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of a Cold?
The first symptoms of a cold are often a tickle in the throat, a runny or stuffy nose, and sneezing. Kids with colds also might feel very tired and have a sore throat, cough, headache, mild fever, muscle aches, and loss of appetite. Mucus from the nose may become thick yellow or green.
Are Colds Contagious?
Colds are the most common infectious disease in the United States. They’re very contagious, especially in the first 2 to 4 days after symptoms begin. They can even spread for a couple of weeks after someone starts feeling sick.
Colds spread through person-to-person contact or by breathing in virus particles, which can travel up to 12 feet through the air when someone with a cold coughs or sneezes. Touching the mouth or nose after touching a contaminated surface can also spread a cold.
How Long Do Colds Last?
Cold symptoms usually appear 2 or 3 days after exposure to a source of infection. Most colds clear up within 1 week, but some last a bit longer.
How Are Colds Diagnosed?
Your doctor won’t be able to find which virus caused the illness, but can check your child’s throat and ears and take a throat culture to make sure the symptoms aren’t from another condition that may need treatment. If symptoms get worse instead of better after 3 days or so, the problem could be strep throat, sinusitis, pneumonia, or bronchitis, especially if your son or daughter smokes.
If symptoms last for more than a week; appear at the same time every year; or happen when your child is around pollen, dust, or animals, an allergy could be to blame. Kids who have trouble breathing or wheeze when they catch a cold could have asthma.
How Are Colds Treated?
Colds will clear up on their own without specific medical treatment. Medicine can’t cure a cold, but can ease symptoms like muscle aches, headache, and fever. You can give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen based on the package directions for age or weight.
Never give aspirin to children or teens, as such use has been linked to Reye syndrome, a rare but serious condition that can be fatal.
Many experts now believe that there’s usually no reason to give over-the-counter (OTC) decongestants and antihistamines to any child younger than 6. There’s little proof that these medicines work, and decongestants can cause hallucinations, irritability, and irregular heartbeats, particularly in infants.
Can Colds Be Prevented?
Because so many viruses cause colds, there isn’t a vaccine to protect against them. To help avoid catching one, kids should:
- steer clear of anyone who has a cold
- avoid secondhand smoke
- wash their hands well and often, especially after blowing their noses
- sneeze or cough into a tissue or their elbow, not into their hands
- not share towels, drinking glasses, or eating utensils with someone who has a cold
- not pick up other people’s used tissues
Experts aren’t sure whether taking extra zinc or vitamin C can limit how long cold symptoms last or how severe they become, but large doses taken every day can cause negative side effects. Studies on herbal remedies, like echinacea, are either negative or aren’t conclusive. Few good scientific studies of these treatments have been done in kids.
Talk to your doctor before you give your child any herbal remedy or more than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of any vitamin or supplement.
How Can I Help My Child?
To help ease cold discomfort, you can:
- Put saline (saltwater) drops in the nostrils to relieve nasal congestion.
- Rn a cool-mist humidifier to increase air moisture.
- Dab petroleum jelly on the skin under the nose to soothe rawness.
- Give hard candy or cough drops to relieve sore throat (only for kids older than 6).
- Run a warm bath or use a heating pad to soothe aches and pains.
- Run a hot shower to create a steam-filled bathroom where your child can sit to help clear stuffiness.
What about chicken soup? There’s no real proof that eating it can cure a cold, but sick people have been swearing by it for more than 800 years. Chicken soup contains a mucus-thinning amino acid called cysteine, and some research shows that chicken soup helps control congestion-causing white cells, called neutrophils.
The best plan, though, is not to worry about whether to “feed a cold” or “starve a fever.” Just make sure your child eats when hungry and drinks plenty of liquids like water or juice to help replace the fluids lost during a fever or from mucus production.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
Always call the doctor if you think your child might have more than a cold, your child gets worse instead of better, or if your child:
- coughs up a lot of mucus
- is short of breath
- is unusually tired
- can’t keep food or liquids down or has trouble drinking
- has a headache that gets worse
- has facial or throat pain that gets worse
- has a severely painful sore throat that makes it hard to swallow
- has fever of 103°F (39.3°C) or higher, or a fever of 101°F (38.0°C) or higher that lasts for more than a day
- has chest or stomach pain
- has swollen glands (lymph nodes) in the neck
- has an earache
Like most viral infections, colds just have to run their course. Getting plenty of rest and drinking lots of fluids — juice and water — can help your child feel better while on the mend.
Keeping up regular activities like going to school probably won’t make a cold any worse. But it will increase the likelihood that the cold will spread to classmates or friends. So you might want to put some daily routines aside until your child is feeling better.
TIMESOFINDIA.COM | Last updated on -Jan 5, 2021, 00:00 IST Share fbsharetwsharepinshare Comments ( 0 )
01 /11 Home remedies for common cold
The season for runny nose and sore throat is here. Common colds are so common that as per Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a person is likely to suffer from common cold twice a year. Though common colds are not painful, they can leave you feeling awful.
There is no cure for a common cold but there are several home remedies and of the counter medicines that can help treat the symptoms. But it’s best to first try home remedies as these do not have any side effects. Here is everything about the common cold and some simple home remedies to treat it.
Before we move on to what common cold feels like, let’s talk about what exactly causes it.
02 /11 Causes of a common cold
There are many types of viruses that can cause the common cold, rhinoviruses being the most common culprit. The virus enters your body through your mouth, eyes or nose. It can easily spread when a person who is sick cough, sneezes or talks.
The virus can also spread by hand to hand contact or by sharing contaminated objects like towels, toys, telephone or utensils. If one touches their eyes, mouth and nose after such exposure, they are most likely to catch the virus.
03 /11 Symptoms of a common cold
The symptoms of cold appear a few days after you have caught the infection. Here are some symptoms of a cold.
Fatigue, tiredness, chills, body aches, chest discomfort, low-grade fever and difficulty in breathing.
Headache, watery eyes, cough, sore throat, cough and swollen lymph nodes.
Congestion, runny nose, sinus pressure, stuffy nose, loss of smell or taste, sneezing and water nasal secretions.