Common Cold Cures Remedies
by Janet Holm McHenry
It hits suddenly, doesn’t it? Your head hurts. Your throat hurts. You’re plugged up . . . and you just want to go to bed and stay there.
The common cold is no fun and puts a damper on, if not a complete stop to, your daily routines and life’s demands. Perhaps there’s some comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Americans come down with about one billion colds each year, which means you can expect to get two to four colds annually.
While there still is no cure for the common cold, there are some things you can do to lessen its effects and perhaps even shorten its duration.
- Rest. Your body needs rest so it can better fight off your viral infection. You will get better more quickly by staying home and getting extra sleep. Besides, you may be infectious for a week or more, and others will appreciate your keeping your cold to yourself. Keep yourself warm, because if you are chilled, your body uses more energy to try to warm itself.
- Hydrate. Drinking clear liquids such as water, juice, herbal teas, fruit drinks, clear broth, and lemon water with honey helps to break up congestion and keeps you hydrated. Warm drinks are particularly soothing; try heating fruit juices. And yes, chicken soup adds hydration and relieves congestion.
- Loosen up. A stuffy head is no fun, but several natural remedies can help.
- First, you can give your head a steam bath. Boil a saucepan of water, then place it on your kitchen counter. Put a towel over your head as you lean over the saucepan. Breathe through your nose slowly, taking care not to get burned. Using a humidifier in your bedroom can help, as can a hot shower.
- Another helpful idea is to use a saline spray or salt-water rinse—but make sure that you use distilled water or water that has been boiled several minutes; otherwise, you could get an infection from regular tap water. You can create your own spray with this mixture: 8 ounces of purified water and one teaspoon of a mixture of 3 teaspoons of iodide-free salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda. You can squirt the mixed solution into one nostril at a time over a sink, holding the other nostril closed.
- A final suggestion is to simply keep blowing your nose, rather than sniffling the mucus back into your head. Dispose of those tissues right away to minimize germ exposure.
- Soothe your throat. One of the toughest symptoms is a sore throat. To feel better, gargle with a mixture of 8 ounces of warm water and ¼ to ½ teaspoon of salt. You can also use ice chips, sore throat sprays, and lozenges—but take care with small children that they do not choke on them.
- Relieve pain. You can lessen a sore throat and other pain with over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB or generics), acetaminophen (Tylenol and generics), and aspirin (which should not be given to children or teenagers recovering from chicken pox or flu-like symptoms because it is linked to Reye’s syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition for those ages). Take any medication as directed on the package and as your doctor advises.
- Lessen other symptoms. Other over-the-counter cold and cough medications can help to alleviate congestion and a cough. Adults and children over the age of 5 can use decongestants and antihistamines but should only be used as directed, with the understanding that these medications and others can have other adverse effects, especially if taken long term. Reading labels and consulting your doctor are important.
Scientific research shows that there are some natural products that may lessen the severity of a common cold, particularly if taken with the first symptoms. These products, according to the National Institutes of Health, include the following—with the note that the evidence is weak that they help much:
- Zinc, taken orally as lozenges, tablets, and syrup. One study showed that oral zinc helps reduce the length of colds when taken within the first 24 hours of any symptoms. The NIH does not recommend taking zinc intranasally, as an irreversible loss of the sense of smell could occur. It also cautions that zinc can cause nausea and other gastrointestinal symptoms and may interact with other drugs such as antibiotics and penicillamine (used to treat rheumatoid arthritis).
- Vitamin C if taken regularly. The NIH says that taking Vitamin C with the onset of a cold does not help relieve symptoms or lessen the duration of the cold. However, taking it regularly has been tied to small improvement of symptoms. One caution: high doses of Vitamin C can cause digestive upset.
- Some echinacea products. Echinacea has not been shown to reduce the number of colds, but some preparations of it can help treat them. This is an herbal supplement, and the products vary in preparation—so there is not a lot of evidence that supports echinacea. The NIH cautions that some may have allergic side effects, such as rashes.
- Probiotics. Probiotics, available in dietary supplements and yogurts, are a type of good bacteria, similar to microorganisms found in the body. The NIH says they may be beneficial to overall health. While an analysis of research has indicated that probiotics might help to prevent upper respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold, the evidence is not strong. The NIH indicates that there can be mild to serious side effects related to the gastrointestinal tract.
As a whole, your mother or grandmother was probably right when she bundled you up, put you to bed, gave you chicken soup, and turned on a humidifier. Conversely, pushing yourself by going to work and attempting your normal routines will not help your body fight its viral infection.
So, call in sick and take proactive measures to help your body help itself.
Notes: Information gleaned from articles provided by the Mayo Clinic and the National Institutes of Health and a WebMD article sourced from Palo Alto Medical Foundation, American Lung Foundation, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Linus Pauling Institute, and others.
Janet McHenry is a national speaker and the author of 24 books, including the bestselling PrayerWalk and her newest, Stronger Every Day. She can be contacted through her website, https://www.janetmchenry.com.
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