If you are anything like me, there are few things more frustrating than having a bad cold and the runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, and sore throat that go along with it. Although colds can occur at any time of the year, they are particularly prevalent in the winter or rainy seasons. The symptoms typically start about two or three days after you come in contact with the virus, although it can take up to a week.
There is no cure for the common cold, but you can treat the symptoms and take precautions. Keep in mind that a cold usually begins with fatigue, a feeling of being chilled, a headache, and sneezing, followed by a runny nose and cough. Symptoms usually clear up in 7–10 days but some can last for up to three weeks.
Take the following precautions to reduce your chances of getting sick:
- Take a probiotic or eat foods that contain “active cultures.” A multi-vitamin is also good to take.
- Get 7–9 hours of sleep per night.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Drink 8 glasses of water per day to help flush out toxins and keep your throat from drying out. If your throat gets dry, the bacteria already in your throat from previous infections can more readily infect you.
- Avoid secondhand smoke.
- Do not share glasses, utensils, makeup, toothbrushes, hand towels, etc.
- Avoid close or prolonged contact with anyone who has a cold. (It is the most contagious during the first 3 days that the person has it.)
- Clean your kitchen and bathroom countertops as well as door handles if family members are sick.
- Avoid touching your face after touching surfaces in a public area until you wash your hands.
- Keep toilet seats closed while flushing. If you don’t, the germs can erupt out of the toilet bowel. It can take several hours for these particles to finally settle.
- Keep your toothbrush in your medicine cabinet. This is especially important if you are sharing your bathroom with guests or family members.
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, especially those with vitamin C.
Here are my tips to help relieve your symptoms:
- Gargle with salt. This will moisten a sore throat and bring temporary relief. I recommend gargling with a ½ teaspoon of salt dissolved in a glass of water a few times a day. It also helps loosen mucus, which removes irritants like allergens, bacteria, and fungi from the throat.
- Blow your nose instead of sniffling. It is of upmost importance to always have tissues on hand to avoid sniffling which causes mucus to go back into your head.
- Get enough sleep. Your immune system is at risk when you are tired. Get 8 or 9 hours of sleep when you are sick, so that your body has enough energy for the immune battle.
- Keep warm. Keep your neck covered whenever possible, even while inside. If you go outside, dress in layers. Also, do not forget your gloves and hat.
- Drink lots of fluids. Your body needs water to function. Water helps flush out toxins and keeps your mucous membranes moist, which can prevent cold and flu germs from adhering inside your nose or lungs.
- Ditch the hard work-outs such as lifting weights, but don’t be afraid of moderate exercise. Take a brisk walk during the day or go to a yoga class. Over-exercising will lower immunity, but moderate exercise has been shown to boost it.
- Take steamy showers & baths. Inhaling warm, moist air helps thin out and loosen mucus. Get to the sauna if you have access to one.
- Avoid dairy products. They lead to increased mucous production.
- Sip hot tea. Be sure to include raw local honey. Honey coats the throat to soothe irritation and is rich in infection-fighting antioxidants. Ginger tea is ideal, as it has mild analgesic effects. Also, ginger has been shown to fight various types of viruses. Squeeze half a lemon into your tea for added vitamin C.
- Stay in as much as you can and wash your hands often. This will reduce your chances of catching another bug which you are susceptible to with a weakened immune system.
- Take a shot of oregano. Put a few drops of oregano essential oil in a shotglass of water and shoot it down. Oregano has a powerful antiviral and anti-inflammatory activity. Do not be alarmed if it burns.
- Opt for natural throat lozenges. Those that are sugar free and contain zinco, vitamin C, or menthol are the best. When your body’s chemical load is high, it will not function properly. Chemicals clog your organs and hamper your immune system.
- Avoid refined sugar. These sugars can suppress the activity of white blood cells, our primary line of defense against infection.
- Increase your antioxidant intake. It’s no secret that antioxidants boost our immune systems. This includes garlic, turmeric, and anything high in vitamin C such as oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, etc.
- Sleep with an extra pillow under your head and slightly tilted forward, so that the mucus in your nose does not flow down your throat. This is usually why you wind up with post-nasal drip, which leads to coughing.
If your symptoms get worse or do not improve after 7–10 days, be sure to consult with a medical professional.