No matter how fastidious you are in washing your hands, using hand sanitizer, and avoiding crowds, sometimes the common cold cannot be avoided. Colds are viruses spread through the air, from physical contact, and by touching infected objects. While colds are not considered life-threatening for most of us, they can be pretty miserable. Although there is no cure for the common cold, there are steps you can take to make yourself feel better and get back on your feet sooner. Here are ten ways to take care of yourself while you are suffering from a cold.
10. Get Some Sleep
Some battles are best fought while lying down. One of the best things you can do to restore your body to health is to call in sick and climb between the covers. Taking time to rest not only gives you a chance to heal, but it also protects others from catching your cold. Sleep helps you heal by generating hormones in your body that enhance the growth of new tissues. Sleep also induces the release of cytokines, which promote a healthy immune response.
9. Slurp Some Chicken Soup
Be sure to stay hydrated and replace electrolytes lost through illness by sipping some good old-fashioned chicken noodle soup. If this tried-and-true home remedy doesn’t appeal to you, then a hot cup of tea will do the trick as well. Keeping well hydrated thins the mucus that sometimes accompanies a cold. Water, tea, and chicken broth provide the fluids your body needs. Avoid beverages that are high in caffeine, such as coffee or sodas, as these are dehydrating. Stay away from alcohol while you are recuperating.
8. Gargle with Salt Water
Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water for a gargle that cleanses and soothes the throat. Used several times a day, this gargle breaks up phlegm and mucus and decreases inflammation in the back of the throat. Salt also has antibacterial properties that attack germs as well. Gargling and spitting help to remove gunk and irritants that have taken up residence in your mouth and throat.
7. Use Saline Nasal Sprays
Nasal sprays containing saline soothe and moisturize the nasal membranes similar to the way salt water gargles soothe the throat. Feel free to use them several times a day, as they contain no harmful chemicals. A neti pot is a device that can be filled with a warm saline solution and used to irrigate your nasal passageways. To use the pot, make sure it has been sterilized with hot water first. Then add the saline solution, stand over a sink with your head tilted, and gently pour the solution through your top nostril. The liquid will drain through your lower nostril.
6. Consider OTC Cold and Cough MedicationsRelated: 5 Illnesses Your Pets Can Spread to You
There are many cough and cold products available over-the-counter at your local drug store. Antihistamines relieve the swelling, itchiness, and runny nose of the common cold. Decongestants break up congestion causing blocked nasal passages. Antitussives prevent coughing. Expectorants break up mucus in the lungs and allow you to cough them out. Some cold products contain many different ingredients and target multiple symptoms. While this can be helpful, you may benefit from using individual cold products to target only the symptoms you currently suffer from. For instance, you may not want to take a cold product containing decongestants at bedtime, as they can keep you awake.
5. Investigate OTC Pain Relievers
Pain relievers can be helpful for the aches and pains that often accompany the common cold. Acetaminophen is the active ingredient contained in Tylenol. This medication is analgesic, which means it relieves pain. It is also an antipyretic, which means it lowers fever. Ibuprofen is the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agent (NSAID) found in Motrin or Advil. NSAIDs work on prostaglandins and thereby reduce the pain and fever of the common cold. Used properly, these medications can go far in reducing nagging cold symptoms. Be sure to read the label and use properly in order to prevent side effects.Related: FDA Reinforces Warnings About Health Risks Posed by Everyday Painkillers
4. Humidify the Air
A dry, scratchy throat can be one aggravating symptom of a cold. Use of a cool mist vaporizer may provide relief while moisturizing membranes. The added moisture in the air can also help break up mucus in your lungs and help you breathe more easily. Make sure to keep your vaporizer clean and free from bacteria, mold, and mineral deposits from water. Use distilled water instead of tap water to decrease the number of minerals running through your machine. Check the filter often and replace it when old or damaged.
3. Try Honey
Adding honey to your tea or lemon water is a delicious way to fight a cold. The Mayo Clinic reports that honey may be a great way to suppress a cough—rivaling the effects of cough medicines. If you don’t care to mix honey into your tea, try it straight. Take two teaspoons of honey at bedtime to prevent a nagging nighttime cough. While honey is a safe and natural way to treat adult coughs, never give honey to infants. Babies less than one year of age are susceptible to the Clostridium botulinum bacteria that can be found in honey.
2. Consider Zinc
Studies show zinc lozenges may be helpful in treating rhinovirus, a virus that attacks your upper respiratory system. To benefit from zinc, you must take it within the first 24 hours of symptoms. When you do this, you can decrease the amount of time you suffer from a cold by one day. Side effects of zinc include nausea and a bad taste in the mouth. Never use nasal sprays that contain zinc, as they can affect your sense of smell.Related: Signs You May Have a Zinc Deficiency
Echinacea is an herb that may help decrease the length of your cold if taken during the first 24 hours. While some studies show it to be effective, others show the effectiveness to be minimal. Echinacea supplements are available as tablets, lozenges, liquids, and teas. There are many varieties of echinacea products available, and they tend to come in varying strengths. Additionally, cough drops containing echinacea may soothe your cough. Side effects of echinacea can be an upset stomach or diarrhea.