When the weather’s cold, rainy, or snowy (or all three), many of us spend more time indoors with the doors and windows closed. Unfortunately, that lack of fresh air increases our risk of catching a cold, which science still hasn’t cured. When that happens, many people rely on their favorite remedies. But which ones actually work? This post describes alternative relief for the common cold. Does your favorite remedy work? Keep reading to find out.
Get Plenty of Rest
Our bodies often tell us exactly what they need. When you’re sick, you likely feel tired and want to sleep more than usual. That’s because your body is working overtime to heal and needs to rest. So, give your body what it’s asking for. Take naps. Sleep in. Go to bed early. Snuggle up with a good book or your favorite TV show and support your body’s efforts to heal.
Drink Plenty of Liquids
Our bodies become dehydrated when we’re sick, so keep yours stocked with plenty of water or juice. You can also drink clear broth or warm water with lemon and honey added. These are great for loosening up congestion AND preventing dehydration. If you prefer warm tea to warm water, make sure it’s the non-caffeinated kind. Caffeine is a diuretic, so also avoid coffee and caffeinated sodas when you’re sick, since these can make dehydration worse.
Have a Cup of Chicken Soup
Mom was right; chicken soup is good for a cold. It not only helps relieve your symptoms, it also helps slow a cold’s progression. A warm bowl of chicken soup with vegetables – whether homemade or from a can – helps slow the movement of white blood cells. Those are your body’s germ fighters. Slowing them down makes them more effective because it allows them to concentrate their efforts where they’re needed most.
Gargle to Soothe Your Sore Throat
You can ease the pain of a sore throat by gargling with salt water. Add one-quarter teaspoon of salt for every 4 ounces of warm water. You can safely do this three or four times per day.
You can also gargle with hydrogen peroxide, which helps destroy the germs causing your sore throat. Do this before brushing your teeth in the morning or evening, but not both. For full effectiveness, swish the hydrogen peroxide around inside your mouth for 60 seconds before spitting it out.
Do not gargle with hydrogen peroxide more than two or three times per week. You may want to dilute the hydrogen peroxide with equal parts water and be sure not to swallow it. A nice side effect with this remedy is that it also helps whiten your teeth.
Acetaminophen, Aspirin, and Ibuprofen to Relieve Pain
Aches and pains are common cold symptoms. Luckily, over-the-counter pain relievers do a good job relieving this type of pain. Ask your doctor if these medications are safe to take, though. They may not react well with your prescriptions, particularly if you take blood thinners. Aspirin is also not recommended for children under the age of 3, or for any child recovering from flu or chickenpox.
How to Soothe a Cough
Over-the-counter cough remedies, such as lozenges and syrups, work well to soothe a cough. They do not, however, cure the cause. Only time can do that (or antibiotics, if what you have is a bacterial infection and not a cold). Follow the package directions, though. Serious side effects may occur if you take too much cold or cough medicine.
You can also treat a cough with honey or dark chocolate. Warm honey works well to soothe both a cough and a sore throat, due to its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. Add a tablespoon to a cup of warm water or tea, or drink it straight. Do not give honey to children younger than 12 months, though.
Dark chocolate helps suppress a cough thanks to an ingredient called theobromine, which is the active ingredient in most cough syrups. Two ounces of dark chocolate is the equivalent of one dose of cough syrup.
Don’t Take Antibiotics for a Cold
Antibiotics help fight bacteria. A cold, however, is a viral infection, which means antibiotics don’t help at all.
Inappropriate use of antibiotics has two drawbacks. First, your body builds resistance to the medication over time. This makes antibiotics less effective when you actually need them. More importantly, though, inappropriate use of antibiotics contributes to the growing number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Remedies that Probably Don’t Work, but Don’t Hurt
Finally, a number of popular remedies have never been proven to actually work to prevent a cold or treat its symptoms. But that hasn’t stopped people from swearing by them. Of course, if you believe it works, that may be enough to make it work for you. The following supplements likely won’t hurt you, but they probably don’t do much to help.
- Vitamin C
While zinc taken orally won’t harm you, zinc taken as a nasal spray may affect your sense of smell. Use with caution or speak to your doctor.
Prevention Is the Most Powerful Drug of All
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Two easy steps help slow the spread of cold germs.
First, use the inside of your elbow cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, not your hands. Your hands are the fastest way to spread any infection.
That brings us to number two: wash your hands often. The Mayo recommends the following steps:
- Wet hands with water (cold or warm both work)
- Apply soap to your cupped hand (do NOT use antibacterial soap)
- Lather well for at least 20 seconds, scrubbing palms, backs of hands, wrists, between fingers, and under fingernails
- Rinse well
- Dry with a clean towel
- Use towel to turn off faucet
If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
When to See Your Doctor
Adults over the age of 50 need to practice vigilance against pneumonia, particularly when a cough accompanies your cold. If symptoms last longer than five days or suddenly get worse, call your doctor. If you have any questions about your Medicare coverage, call us toll-free at 855-350-8101 to speak to a licensed agent.