While there's no cure for the common cold, many remedies can ease symptoms and help you recover faster. Resting, relieving pain with over-the-counter medications, and staying hydrated are all crucial components of cold care. Sipping warm tea and keeping hydrated throughout the colder months is especially important, as it can help clear nasal passages, relieve congestion, and boost the immune system to prevent the common cold. Being proactive and taking action as symptoms start can help you feel better faster and get back on your feet.
Causes and Symptoms of the Common Cold
Over 200 viruses can lead to the cold, the most common type being rhinoviruses. These viruses are highly contagious, spreading from person to person through human contact and droplets in the air from coughing or sneezing. You'll typically experience these symptoms one to three days after being exposed to a cold virus:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Mild headache
- Scratchy or sore throat
- Slight body aches
- Low-grade fever
You can prevent a cold by caring for your immune system. Drinking plenty of fluids, eating a balanced diet, and getting regular sleep might help your body prepare for and potentially even prevent a cold. You can also reduce your chance of getting a cold by washing your hands for at least 20 seconds and keeping your hands away from your eyes and nose.
How to Recover Quickly From a Cold
Some of these home remedies might shorten the amount of time you're sick. Rest, hydration, and over-the-counter medications can help you improve symptoms and feel better.
Here's how to recover from a cold faster!
Increase your fluid intake as soon as you begin experiencing cold symptoms. Water makes up 60% of our bodies so staying hydrated can ensure your body has what it needs to function normally and fight off the virus. Additionally, many cold symptoms can be dehydrating, as you lose water through a stuffy nose, sneezing, watery eyes, fever, sweating, and post-nasal drip.
Make it a habit to drink plenty of water while you're sick by following these tips:
- Be mindful of your intake: While you should stay hydrated year-round, drinking water is especially important throughout the colder months when our chances of getting sick increase. It can be challenging to notice when we're sweating in colder weather, so we might forget to drink water and replenish our fluids. Make it a habit to drink plenty of water throughout the winter to help prevent the common cold and other illnesses.
- Drink the proper amount: Make hydration a routine by setting a goal to drink at least eight cups daily. Put a glass of water on your bedside table to drink first thing in the morning, and make it your beverage of choice throughout the day. Be mindful that certain factors can influence the amount of water you drink throughout the day, such as your activity and fitness levels, overall health status, and whether you live in a dry, humid, or temperate climate.
- Try warm drinks: As it's common to get the cold in the winter, try warm fluids to stay hydrated and cozy. Sipping on warm water, herbal teas, or broths all count toward your hydration. Hot water with honey and lemon is especially helpful as it can ease sore throats, while the honey acts as a natural cough suppressant.
- Add flavor: You don't have to stick to solely water to stay hydrated. Introduce flavors like a wedge of lemon, lime, or other fruits to encourage better drinking habits.
- Carry a water bottle: Makehydration easier by carrying a water bottle with you wherever you go. At work, keep one on your desk and refill it as needed so you remember to replenish your fluids throughout the day.
- Drink your food: Soups are an easy way to increase your fluid intake. You can also consume water-rich fruits and vegetables like celery, tomatoes, and watermelon to ensure you get the proper amount each day that you're sick.
- Drink quality water: Use a water filter to reduce contaminants and promote better health and wellness. You can use your filtered water for drinking as well as making warm beverages and soups. An NSF-certified water filtration system can ensure your water has reduced contaminants, protecting your health as you heal from a cold.
Water transports nutrients and removes waste from the body, supports the immune system, and helps us maintain a proper body temperature. More than just replacing lost fluids, drinking water can also help loosen mucus responsible for a stuffy nose and chest cough — managing symptoms that cause discomfort to help you feel better faster.
Getting quality sleep is a crucial component of overall health. While sleeping, your body repairs and maintains essential processes that keep you healthy and functioning. Lack of sleep, however, can impact the immune system. In fact, research shows that sleep-deprived people are less responsive to the flu vaccine and more likely to get infections like the common cold. Even short-term sleep deprivation can lead to sickness, so getting plenty of sleep is crucial to help your body fight off infections more effectively.
While it can be challenging to get quality sleep when you're dealing with a stuffy nose or persistent cough, these tips might make it easier:
- Keep your head propped up: When you're sick, try sleeping with your head propped up on a pillow. This can help your nasal passages drain and reduce pressure in your head to provide more comfort.
- Avoid daytime cold medications: Daytime over-the-counter medications might keep you awake if you take them before bed. Instead, opt for cold medicines made specifically for nighttime.
- Take a hot shower: Before bed, take a hot bath or shower to wind down and help you relax. The steam from a hot bath might also break up mucus so you can breathe more easily and sleep comfortably. You can also use a humidifier as you sleep to prevent a stuffy nose throughout the night.
- Drink a cup of tea: Try drinking chamomile tea with lemon and honey to soothe your throat. A warm cup of tea can also help you relax and feel sleepy.
- Get seven to nine hours of sleep: Most adults should get between seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same times each day, as this might encourage your body to wind down naturally at the same time each night for better sleep.
- Create a comfortable sleep environment: Ensure your room is set up for optimal sleep with ventilation and a cool, dark environment. Use blackout curtains to prevent light from filtering in, and opt for a white noise machine to cancel any sounds.
- Nap during the day: If you're unable to sleep enough during the night, try napping. Keeping your nap to 30 minutes at a time might help you sleep easier at night.
You know what your body needs, so don't worry if you feel like sleeping a lot in the first few days of your cold. Sleeping when you’re sick is essential for your recovery, helping you boost your immune system to fight off your illness more effectively.
Just as drinking plenty of water while you're sick is essential, you can also use salt water to ease a sore throat. Do a salt water gargle to temporarily relieve scratchiness and discomfort by dissolving one-quarter to one-half teaspoon of salt in a four- to eight-ounce glass of warm water. While it cannot prevent or cure your cold, it can help alleviate symptoms that make you feel unwell.
When you have your salt water solution ready, follow these simple steps to gargle:
- Take a mouthful and swish it around your mouth.
- Ensure the salt water is thoroughly coating your mouth and throat.
- Tilt your chin up and gargle the salt water at the back of your throat.
- Gargle for as long as you can.
- Spit out the solution.
- Repeat the process throughout the day for pain relief.
The saline solution can draw excess fluid from the inflamed tissues of the throat to make them hurt less. Gargling also helps loosen mucus, removing irritants like allergens and bacteria from the throat. In that sense, salt water might also help eliminate the virus or bacteria that causes a sore throat, as the saline solution changes the pH level in your mouth, making it harder for them to survive.
You can also loosen mucus and prevent your throat from feeling dry and scratchy with lozenges, ice chips, throat sprays, and sugar-free hard candy.
For adults and children over five, over-the-counter (OTC) cold medications might offer cold symptom relief to help you feel better. It's crucial to remember that they cannot prevent or shorten the duration of your illness, and many have side effects. It's vital that you only take medications as directed. Some cold remedies contain multiple ingredients, such as a pain reliever and a decongestant. Remember to read the labels on your cold medicines to ensure you're not taking too much.
Common OTC medications that might relieve your symptoms include:
- For a stuffy nose: A decongestant might be your best bet for nasal or sinus congestion. However, an antihistamine could work if you have drainage, like a runny nose or post-nasal drip and watery eyes. Note that OTC antihistamines can make you feel drowsy, while decongestants might make you more awake. You'll want to ask your health care provider which is best for you.
- For fever and aches: Doctors recommend not lowering a fever, except for older adults and children. When your body heats up from a fever, it can kick-start your immune system and help your body fight off infection. However, if you are uncomfortable, ask your doctor about taking a fever-reducing medication.
- For pain: Over-the-counter pain relievers can provide comfort during a cold. Try a medicine with acetaminophen while avoiding aspirin. Speak with a health care professional to determine which is best for you.
- For sore throat: Drinking plenty of fluids and gargling with salt water can relieve a sore throat. Some medications like acetaminophen and other options like lozenges can also temporarily calm a sore throat.
Ask your health care provider before taking over-the-counter medications. Avoid separate pain remedies if your cough or cold medicines include one already.
Studies show honey might reduce symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections like the common cold. Its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties can help soothe a sore throat and keep you comfortable while you recover. Other research suggests honey reduces mucus secretion, allowing you to use it for cough symptoms.
To use honey for your cold symptoms, take one spoonful or about a teaspoon, or dilute it with warm water or tea for its soothing effects. For relief before bed, try taking a spoonful of honey at night. It's also safe to take honey and over-the-counter medication together if symptoms aren't dissipating from the honey alone. Note that honey contains sugar, so it's best to take it no more than four or five times daily.
Honey can be an ideal solution for people who cannot take traditional cold medications, such as children under five or those with health conditions like cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. It also doesn't come with side effects that OTC medications can have, like drowsiness. Note that honey should not be given to babies until they are at least one year old.
Humidify the Air
Keeping your nasal passages moisturized is another effective, simple remedy for cold relief. You can achieve this by humidifying your air. Keep a humidifier running throughout the flu season so rooms stay at 40% to 60% humidity to reduce the risk of getting sick. This humidity level is generally associated with fewer viruses on surfaces and in the air.
You can also add menthol ointments under your nose or on the throat for symptom relief. Many people concoct herbal steam therapies, like using eucalyptus, to breathe in the steam and help clear congestion.
A saline nose rinse can help remove mucus from the body, reducing swelling that can cause congestion. One study found that this method might shorten your illness and reduce the risk of spreading germs to others. When doing a nasal rinse, ensure that you only use distilled or purified water since tap water can contain contaminants like bacteria that carry the risk of other infections.
Stay Hydrated With Multipure
A combination of home remedies can relieve cold symptoms and help you feel better faster. You'll want to practice healthy hydration and use clean, filtered water to ensure you get better results.
At Multipure, we provide water filtration systems that make hydration easier and promote better health and wellness for you and your family this cold season. Our NSF-certified filters can reduce contaminants that contribute to illness, so your body can feel rejuvenated.