Ask anyone how to get rid of the “common cold” and you’ll get a million different answers. While we aren’t doctors and therefore can’t guarantee that these tips will work, they come at the advice of medical professionals. Take a look what they suggest.
First Things First
E. Neil Schachter, M.D., who wrote The Good Doctor’s Guide to Cold and Flu, advises taking a shower first thing after you wake up feeling sick, as the steam can help to clear up some of that stuffiness you’re likely to feel. If the idea of being soaking wet when you’re already achy sounds less than ideal, there is an incentive, especially if you’re full of mucus and your sinuses are acting up—the humidity actually serves to help with both.
If you’re debating whether or not to take the day off, Dr. Jason Jones, GP, suggests judging by your symptoms, “If you have a fever (above [99.5 degrees F]), diarrhea, are coughing heavily or are so congested you have a headache, don’t go to work. These are signs you’re fighting an infection.”
While you might think staying home is taking the easy way out, Jones says that you risk aggravating your illness otherwise.
Hydration, Hydration, Hydration
It’s commonly said that you need to drink even more fluids when you’re under the weather, and there’s a reason for this. Jennifer Wider, M.D. spoke to SELF and explained, “Certain illnesses can cause a rapid water loss, for example vomiting and diarrhea.”
The point of drinking more water than you might normally is to prevent you from experiencing dehydration as this can exacerbate the symptoms—not that you ever want to be dehydrated, for the record. You’re also susceptible to dehydration if you’re in the midst of a fever.
Be careful not to have too much water though—that is a thing, as it turns out—as you don’t want to over-hydrate and, as a result, experience hyponatremia. (Click here for more information about why you should be mindful of your water intake.)
Though the amount of water each person should be drinking varies, it’s suggested that a daily allotment of eight eight-ounce glasses should suffice for most. There’s water in the food you eat as well, which does count, though if you’re experiencing either diarrhea or you’re vomiting, you might need a little more water.
The food that you should be eating and steering clear of whilst sick really depends on what your symptoms are.
Gastroenterologist James Lee, MD, advocates the BRAT diet for those experiencing diarrhea. The foods you should focus on having if you’re following this are “bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Also oatmeal, boiled potatoes, saltine crackers, and baked chicken or turkey without the skin.”
Caffeine and artificial sweeteners, like sorbitol, are just a couple of the things that should be avoided if you’re experiencing these symptoms.
If it’s a sore throat that’s bothering you, on the other hand, Lauren Slayton, RD, suggests a combination of lukewarm peppermint tea with Manuka honey, as well as creamy, yet soft, foods. Take this opportunity to enjoy a bowl of mashed potatoes, custard, or some cream soup. If you want to go the slightly less-fattening route though, you can also have scrambled eggs or yogurt.
You should really strive to avoid drinking anything that’s hot, or eating foods that would constitute as “scratchy” like chips and granola. For more symptoms and how to approach them when it comes to food, click here.
Rely on a Lozenge
Though you should definitely take the above into consideration before choosing what you will or won’t eat whilst under the weather, you might want to take some zinc for the time being, according to Ananda Prasad, MD.
Research says it has the propensity to cut the length of your cold in half if you suck on it within the first 24 hours after you first experience symptoms. Not just that, but it can even ease your sore throat or, if you have it, runny nose.
The key is to stick to lozenges as opposed to syrup or another alternative, as it will stay in your mouth for a greater amount of time—so long as you don’t bite it.
There are a couple of things to be aware of though. Avoid orange lozenges if you decide to go this route, as both citric and tartaric acid can lessen the effect the zinc will have on you, and don’t become reliant on zinc, as it can result in diarrhea or vomiting.
Ball State University’s Leonard Kaminsky, PhD, of the university’s Clinical Exercise Physiology Program, Human Performance Laboratory, says that rather than hiding from exercise because you don’t feel 100 percent, doing some low-key exercise won’t just likely not exacerbate the situation, but it might even help somewhat.
When he says easy exercise though, he means it; activities like walking or yoga (the gentle kind) actually have the propensity to not only get you over your cold more quickly, but to lessen its intensity as well as stuffiness you’re experiencing.
Going overboard though might actually do the opposite and cause you to take a longer time to recover. Listen to your body, and if taking a walk around the block feels like too much, take that as a signal that you should stop and rest.
You should also avoid working out if you’re running a fever, your stomach is bothering you, or your body is aching. For more tips on judging whether you should workout whilst sick, click here.
Your Nose Knows
One trick to easing your congested sinuses is trying your hand at a decongestant nasal spray, says Laura Pizzi, PharmD, MPH, who teaches at the Thomas Jefferson University School of Pharmacy in Philadelphia.
The one thing you have to watch out for, though, is how reliant you’re becoming on one of these sprays, as using one for a longer period of time than the instructions advise has the ability to harm more than help, by irritating your nose and reverse the intended effects. If you use it the wrong way, you risk extra congestion. Just ensure you’re following the instructions regarding the dosage, to a tee.
Another option is to use what’s referred to as “nasal irrigation systems” which utilize saline and are helpful when it comes to “[treating] congested sinuses, colds and allergies.”
The FDA warns against using tap water given that it isn’t filtered as well as it should be, and the bacteria found in there “can stay alive in nasal passages and cause potentially serious infections.”
Though this probably only sounds familiar in reference to Sleeping Beauty and other fairy tales, elderberry, which is known as elder for short, is actually a plant—technically “a large shrub or small tree.” It’s served humans well for hundreds of years and can be taken orally as a means of “[treating] respiratory illnesses such as cold and flu.”
Though this isn’t the only purpose it serves, black elder, which is also referred to as European elder, is the most commonly used species when it comes to serving as a form of medicine.
While it might come off as a bit too good to be true for those who aren’t fans of seemingly holistic purposes, it’s the flavonoids in the plant which are most helpful. Also found in particularly popular berries like blueberries and blackberries, flavonoids are even more potent in elderberry, and could potentially “help prevent damage to the body’s cells.”
Be sure to avoid the dwarf elder at all costs, as it may be poisonous. Keep in mind that there haven’t been too many human studies involving elder, so its effectiveness is yet to be confirmed.
When it comes to figuring out your bedtime, Dr. Jones says that it’s best to get to sleep on the earlier side, but you shouldn’t alter your schedule too much. He says not to go to bed “more than an hour before your usual bedtime so you keep your routine and sleep well.”
The widely popular eight-hour rule is still something to take into account as well, in order to facilitate the healing process.
According to a study found in Sleep, the amount of sleep a person gets on regular basis impacts their likelihood to become sick, when compared to those who sleep an average minimum of seven hours each night. In fact, the study found that those in the former category were nearly five times as likely.
Factors that didn’t appear to play a role included, but were not limited to the season, as well as the demographics of each participant.