The sneezing, the runny nose, and the watery eyes — the average adult has between two to three colds a year, according to the
Unfortunately, since more than 200 different viruses can cause a cold, antibiotics for treating bacterial infections won’t help you feel better.
Until researchers can find a cure for the common cold, here are a few remedies that can help relieve your symptoms and may cut down on your sick days.
There are no tricks or shortcuts. It revolves around giving your body what it needs to boost your immune system — rest, hydration, and keeping your throat, nose, and airways comfortable. Here are the best ways to do that.
While there’s some debate if extra fluids really help your cold symptoms, there’s one thing for sure: Dehydration doesn’t help. Your body needs the fluid to keep itself running and to thin mucus.
If you have symptoms like dry mouth or lips, up your fluid intake.
Ways to do it
Drinking enough fluids so your urine is pale yellow can ensure you aren’t getting dehydrated.
Ice chips or popsicles can also help soothe your sore throat.
Here are some other ways to up your fluid intake and soothe areas most affected by colds.
It turns out chicken soup really may help when you have a cold.
According to an article in the Pan Asian Journal of Medical Education, chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties that may help to improve airflow resistance in the nasal passages, making it easier to breathe when you have a cold.
Ways to do it
Chicken soups that are low in sodium and have other ingredients in them like carrots, celery, and onions can be super-soothing when you have a cold. So can sipping on hot teas or just warm water.
Some people also enjoy sipping warm water with lemon juice, honey, and even ginger added to it.
So long, sore and scratchy throats.
A spoonful of honey can help to reduce the incidence of cough when you’ve got a cold. Best of all, it can work for children too (just avoid in those younger than 12 months).
An article published in
Humidifiers and vaporizers are sold at most drugstores. They add moisture to the air, which can help to loosen mucus and ease breathing.
Ways to do it
A lot of people will turn their humidifier on in the evening before bed when coughing seems to worsen.
If you have little ones at home, use a cool-mist vaporizer. Humidifiers with heating elements and hot water could burn a child if their curious hands tipped it over. Always read the manufacturer’s recommendations on cleaning any device to reduce the risks for mold and bacterial growth.
Saline nasal sprays can possibly help relieve nasal congestion and stuffiness in those with colds, according to a review by The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
You can purchase saline nasal sprays over the counter or make your own at home.
Here are some quick steps for making your own saline solution:
- Boil one cup of tap water or use one cup of sterile water in a clean container.
- Add a half-teaspoon of salt and a half-teaspoon of baking soda to the water. Mix and pour into a medical syringe or clean nasal spray bottle.
- If tap water was used, after boiling it, let the mix cool to room temperature.
- Insert the syringe into your nose, aiming the tip toward the back of your head while tilting your head to the side over a sink or while in the shower.
- Depress the spray bottle or syringe plunger. You should find the water comes out your other nostril or out your mouth.
- Gently blow your nose.
- Wash your hands and clean the syringe after each use.
The saline solution may cause a slight tingling or burning sensation at first. Using the solution more than once a day can help to get rid of thick mucus in the nose.
Saline solutions aren’t just good for stuffed noses — they help with sore throats too.
Ways to do it
Using the same saline, baking soda, and sterile water mixture mentioned above, you can create a saltwater gargle.
Pour the solution in your mouth and gargle it in the back of your throat, making an “ahhh” sound. Spit out the water after gargling. The warmth should soothe your sore throat.
It may be easiest to do this close to a sink or shower, in case you need to quickly spit the gargle out. It can cause a tickle in the back of the throat the first time.
Note that little children aren’t usually able to get the saltwater gargle technique down. You may have to wait until they’re seven or older to try this method.
A review of 18 clinical trials on zinc and the common cold suggested that taking zinc within 24 hours of your cold symptoms could help to reduce the cold’s duration.
People who took zinc or used zinc lozenges at doses of 75 milligrams a day or more usually had fewer days of sniffling and sneezing than those who didn’t.
The researchers didn’t recommend taking zinc to prevent colds. There currently isn’t enough data to support that concept.
Remember that higher zinc dosages can cause symptoms like nausea or a bad taste in your mouth. As a result, you may have to balance the benefits with the side effects.
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen can help to reduce body aches and headaches that often accompany colds.
Use one type of pain reliever medication at a time.
If you’re treating a child’s cold, don’t give them aspirin if they’re under the age of 18 due to risks for a condition called Reye’s syndrome.
Decongestant pills or nasal sprays can help to dry up extra mucus. This can reduce the effects of a stuffy nose or hard-to-cough up mucus. Most oral decongestants contain either phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine.
Read the boxes carefully for these medications. You shouldn’t use most decongestant nasal sprays, such as oxymetazoline, more than three days in a row.
If you have side effects like dizziness or problems sleeping, you may want to discontinue them.
Cough drops can help to keep the throat from drying out. They also can contain ingredients that attempt to minimize cold symptoms.
While little ones may love the idea of a hard-candy like substance, it’s best to avoid lozenges until they’re older and won’t choke on them.
While this may seem like a basic recommendation, it’s a good one. Allowing your body the time it needs to heal by sleeping and resting can help you feel better.
A few days of rest can mean you get back on your feet faster in the long run.
There are lots of remedies rumored to help reduce your cold. But despite a lot of research, the following methods don’t really help reduce the duration or symptoms of a cold.
- Antibiotics: Rhinoviruses are the most common causes of colds. Antibiotics won’t kill off viruses, so taking antibiotics for a cold will likely only destroy healthy bacteria in your body. If you still feel sick after 10 to 14 days, or have a fever higher than 101.5°F, your doctor may start to suspect a bacterial infection instead of a cold.
- Echinacea: Echinacea is a plant some people incorporate into teas or herbal supplements to treat the common cold. A
review of researchfound that echinacea hasn’t been shown to have positive benefits in treating colds when compared to a placebo.
- Garlic: Like echinacea, there isn’t a lot of
researchto suggest that garlic can help reduce symptoms or duration of a common cold.
- Tobacco smoking: If there was ever a time to avoid smoking, having a cold is it. The smoke can further irritate your lungs, making coughing worse. You should also avoid secondhand smoke and other irritants, such as cleaning chemicals or kerosene.
The common cold may be a nuisance, but it is self-limiting. You’ll usually start to feel better in a few days and be back to your normal activities.
If you’re taking any OTC medications, including cough drops, check labels for ingredients and dosing instructions so you don’t take too much in a day.
In the meantime, make sure you wash your hands frequently and cover your sneezes and coughs to make sure you don’t spread your cold to others.