There's nothing like the common cold to put a real damper on work, holiday and social plans. A cold usually lasts seven to ten days, with symptoms ranging from runny nose, stuffy nose, headache, sneezing, sore throat, cough, cold sores, back pain and fever. If misery loves company, you've got plenty if you have a cold.
Most colds occur in the fall and winter seasons when everyone spends the most of their time indoors -- but you can catch a cold anytime of the year. Unfortunately there is no cure for the common cold, but there are several home remedies to reduce the miserable symptoms that go along with it.
Get Plenty of Rest
Stress can often compromise your immune system and increase your chances of catching a cold. Once you get it, the best way to combat the illness is decrease your obligations and pamper yourself with some good, old-fashioned rest. Try to stay home and commit yourself to a good book or TV, and sleep whenever possible.
Water is beneficial to those with a cold, and warm liquids and soups can add some much-needed nutrition. You probably don't have much of an appetite so try some natural hot tea or chocolate, which will help hydrate your body, sooth your throat, and ease sinus congestion. Chicken soup and broth is not a myth, it really can alleviate some symptoms the accompany the common cold.
If you don't take vitamins regularly, now is a good time to start. Your body needs vitamins to combat the cold virus. Multi-vitamins that include vitamin C are a good regimen for prevention and recovering from a cold. Just remember to follow the recommended dosage and stick with it for other benefits as well.
Use a Vaporizer
Air gets dry from artificial heating sources so use a vaporizer to add some humidity to the air. This will help loosen thick mucus and alleviate the symptoms that go along with it. Your skin needs moisture too and you'll see benefits from this especially if you're too miserable to carry out your usual skin care regimen.
Use a Warm Washcloth
If you're dealing with a nagging headache in the front of your forehead, try putting a clean, warm washcloth on your forehead and eyes. This can give some relief to the stuffiness that goes along with a cold, itchy eyes that accompany allergies, and the throbbing headache. It also is a good relaxation technique to reduce tension.
Take a Warm Bath or Shower
Usually we feel better after a warm bath or shower when we aren't ill. The same goes for when we have a cold, but there are some added benefits. A warm bath can help you relax and the steam will relieve some sinus and chest congestion.
Gargle with Salt Water
The minute you feel a sore throat coming on, take the opportunity to gargle with table salt added to warm water. It will soothe your throat and can possibly prevent a full-fledged sore throat. Just add the salt to a cup of warm water and gargle.
Keep the cup full in the kitchen and gargle whenever possible. You can heat the water again by putting it in the microwave for a few seconds. Be careful that you don't overheat the water and burn your throat. Use a spoon to stir the salt water and check the temperature before use.
Treat Chapped Lips
Chapped lips often occur with a cold, so keep some lip balm, Carmex or Vaseline handy to soften them up. This also works for a sore, chapped nose.
Prevent spreading a cold by washing your hands often and sneezing into a soft disposable tissue. Avoid hankies because they're rough on the nose and harbor germs.
OTC (Over the Counter) Remedies for Colds
There are many OTC cold and allergy remedies you can use at home without a prescription. Some will target specific symptoms, others offer multi-symptom protection. If you don't have the luxury of bed rest, choose a non-drowsy formula so it doesn't interfere with driving and your ability to function.
As soon as your throat becomes scratchy and sore, suck on zinc lozenges to relieve symptoms. For a stuffy nose and sinuses, try a Vicks Inhaler nasal decongestant to help you breath better. Don't overuse any over-the-counter remedies, particularly decongestants because you could end up with worse congestion. Call a doctor if your symptoms persist or fever spikes. Severe colds can be hard to get rid of and can cause secondary illnesses such as sinus infection, bronchitis and pneumonia.
Whether you get a cold sore (or fever blister) with or without your cold, they're painful and unsightly. To ease the pain at home, avoid foods that can irritate them further such as salty and acidic foods. Orange juice, ketchup, and spicy foods all have a tendency to cause pain and irritation.
Over-the-Counter remedies such as Aspirin and Ibuprofen can can help reduce cold sore pain as long as you're not pregnant and have no history of stomach ulcers. Make sure you read the warning labels on all OTC drugs to make sure they're right for you.
Benzocaine is a local anesthetic ointment that can numb the area and provide much needed relief. The herpes virus that causes cold sores is contagious, so do your best not to spread it. Avoid skin-to-skin contact, sharing utensils, cups and towels until your sores have completely healed.
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