How to Get Rid of a Cold

Janis

By Janis | Updated February 5, 2024

Catching a cold can be a frustrating experience, especially when it interrupts your daily routine. Although there’s no instant cure for the common cold, there are ways to alleviate the symptoms and speed up recovery.

Understanding the nature of the virus and employing effective remedies can reduce the duration of this unpleasant illness.

In this article, we will discuss scientifically-backed remedies that can increase your chances of feeling better faster. Remember, prevention is key, so be sure to stay vigilant during peak cold and flu seasons to minimize your risk of infection.

Is It a Cold or Flu?

Colds and flu are respiratory illnesses caused by viruses. Although they share similar symptoms, they are different conditions. Knowing the difference between a cold and the flu is essential to managing symptoms properly and recovering quickly.

Colds

Colds typically have milder symptoms compared to the flu. Sneezing, congestion of nasal passages, runny nose, and a sore throat are a few of the signs and symptoms that indicate that a person has a cold. 

While there are inconveniences due to the symptoms experienced, you can generally go through your day with a cold. They develop slowly and may last for 7-10 days. Recovery depends on your immune system levels.

Flu

Flu generally has more severe symptoms. It comes on suddenly and includes fever, headaches, muscle aches, and sometimes even vomiting and diarrhea. The flu can last for two weeks or more and may lead to complications if your immunity is low.

Symptoms of a Cold

As the seasons change, colds often become a common ailment, resulting in a range of symptoms that can impact both comfort and productivity. Let’s delve into the various signs to look out for, which may indicate you have caught a cold.

Sneezing

Sneezing is a classic symptom and marks the onset of a cold. Triggered by irritation in your nasal passages, this reflex occurs as your body tries to expel the cold virus.

You may find that you’re sneezing more often than usual when you’re struggling with a cold.

Runny or Stuffy Nose

One of the first signs you might notice when a cold begins is a runny or stuffy nose.

Your body increases mucus production to try to flush out the cold virus, which can result in either a congested nose, making it difficult to breathe, or a constant drip that can leave you reaching for tissues throughout the day.

Watery Eyes

Watery eyes are a common symptom of a cold, often accompanied by nasal congestion. 

This occurs due to increased tear production as a response to irritation and inflammation caused by the viral infection. 

Cough

Coughing due to a cold is typically dry initially but can transition into a wet cough as your cold progresses and your body produces more mucus.

Persistent coughing can also contribute to a feeling of fatigue and a sore throat.

Sore Throat

A sore throat often accompanies a cold. It usually starts with slight discomfort or a scratchy feeling in the throat, which may worsen over time, especially when swallowing or eating.

Aside from coughing and sneezing, this symptom also occurs as your body produces excessive mucus and drips at the back of your throat.

Mild Headache

Headaches that come with colds are typically mild and are often a result of sinus congestion.

The pressure or congestion you feel in your head and face could, therefore, contribute to a constant, dull headache.

Muscle Aches and Fatigue

Muscle aches and a general feeling of fatigue or being unwell, also known as malaise, are common when you have a cold.

Your body uses a lot of its energy to fight off the cold virus, sneezing, coughing, and shivering, which can leave you feeling tired and achy.

Mild Fever

Although less common in adults than in children, a mild fever could still accompany a cold.

If it does occur, the fever is typically low-grade and serves as a natural defense mechanism your body uses to fight off the cold virus.

Loss of Taste and Smell

When your nose is congested due to a cold, it’s not uncommon to temporarily lose your sense of taste and smell. As the congestion improves with the progression of the cold, your senses should gradually return to normal.

Effective Home Remedies

Dealing with a cold can be an uncomfortable experience, and it might leave you seeking relief sooner rather than later. Thankfully, there are effective remedies you can try at home that provide comfort and shorten the cold’s duration.

Stay Hydrated

Increasing your fluid intake can have a soothing effect when you are suffering from a cold. This also helps thin out mucus and promote comfort from the symptoms being experienced.

Water, clear broths, or warm lemon water with honey all make good choices. Hydration aids in the proper functioning of your immune system and also helps to moisten your nasal passages and throat, which can alleviate congestion and soreness. 

Rest and Sleep

Giving your body ample rest is fundamental when you’re fighting a cold. Certain reflexes, such as sneezing or coughing, are temporarily dormant while you are sleeping and provide an opportunity for your body to regain the strength it has lost.

By reducing your physical activity and getting extra sleep, you allow your body to direct more energy towards your immune response. Being well-rested can promote faster recovery from illness.

Saltwater Gargle

Gargling with warm salt water can soothe a scratchy or sore throat, one of the uncomfortable symptoms of a cold.

Prepare one cup of warm water and dissolve half a teaspoon of salt. Rinse the solution in your mouth for a few seconds before spitting it out.

Use of Warm Compresses

Applying warm compresses to your forehead and nose can help relieve symptoms of sinus congestion.

The warmth may help to reduce sinus pressure and open your nasal passages, helping you to breathe more easily.

Nose Flushing

One way of flushing the nasal passages is through the use of a neti pot with a saline solution. This can help thin mucus, flush out irritants and allergens, and reduce nasal congestion. 

It’s essential to use distilled or sterile water in the neti pot to avoid introducing contaminants into the nasal passages. Additionally, following proper hygiene and cleaning procedures for the neti pot is crucial to prevent any risk of infection. 

Inhale Steam

Steam inhalation is an effective home remedy for relieving cold symptoms. Inhaling warm, moist air helps soothe nasal passages and reduce congestion. 

You can take a warm shower or inhale steam from a bowl. You can add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to enhance the therapeutic benefits and promote easier breathing.

Use a Humidifier

Dry air can exacerbate symptoms of a cold, such as a dry throat or congestion.

Using a humidifier can help to maintain moisture in your indoor environment, relieving congestion and making you more comfortable.

Eat Nutritious Foods

Consuming a variety of nutritious foods can bolster your immune system and help your body fight off a cold.

Foods rich in vitamins and minerals, such as fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, can provide the nutrients your body needs to recover.

Take Vitamin C Supplements

Vitamin C supplements are a popular remedy to boost the immune system and reduce the duration of a cold. 

Taking these supplements may help alleviate symptoms and support overall health during a cold. Taking vitamin C even after you have recovered helps with continuous recovery from the stress experienced during the illness.

Over-the-Counter Solutions

When you’re battling a cold, relief can often be found at your local pharmacy or grocery. Over-the-counter solutions can effectively alleviate cold symptoms and help you feel better faster.

Let’s explore a range of these solutions and how they can aid in managing your cold symptoms.

Congestion help

Decongestants are available over-the-counter, and help reduce swelling in your nasal passages, allowing you to breathe more easily.

These are commercially available in various forms, including tablets, liquid forms, and nasal sprays. While they can provide temporary relief, long-term use should be avoided, as it may lead to congestion rebound.

Pain and Swelling reduction

Over-the-counter pain relievers can alleviate the discomfort associated with a cold.

They’re effective in reducing fever, soothing sore throats, and easing headaches or body aches. Always ensure you follow the recommended dosage.

Reduce Coughing

If your cold comes with a persistent cough, an over-the-counter cough suppressant may provide some relief.

These medications work by blocking your cough reflex, making them effective for a dry, hacking cough that prevents sleep.

Anti-Allergy Medication

Over-the-counter antihistamines may help with a runny nose or sneezing by blocking the action of histamine, a substance your body produces during an allergic reaction.

While they can provide relief, they may cause drowsiness, so it’s important to be cautious if you need to drive or focus.

Cold-Relief Medication

Many drug stores offer symptom-targeting cold relief medication designed to tackle multiple symptoms at once, such as sneezing, a runny nose or congestion, coughing, and a mild fever.

These combination medications can efficiently lessen your discomfort, but ensure to use them as directed to avoid any side effects. It is recommended to stop taking additional medicines for individual symptoms when taking all-in-one treatments.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the common symptoms of a cold?

The symptoms of a cold usually include a cough, a runny nose or congestion, sneezing, a sore throat, and, at times, mild fever. Coughing usually starts out dry but may become wet as the cold progresses and more mucus is produced.

You may also feel muscle aches and fatigue and have a mild headache. Less commonly, especially in adults, you may have a mild fever. If your nose is congested, it’s also not uncommon to temporarily lose your sense of taste and smell.

What are some effective home remedies for a cold?

There are various home remedies you can try to alleviate the symptoms of a cold. These include staying hydrated, getting plenty of rest, eating nutritious foods, gargling with warm salt water to soothe a sore throat, and applying warm compresses to relieve sinus congestion.

Using a humidifier can also help maintain moisture in your indoor environment and alleviate congestion.

How can I differentiate a cold from the flu?

Although colds and flu share similar symptoms, they are different conditions, and the symptoms usually vary in their severity. Cold symptoms are typically milder, develop slowly, and include congestion, runny nose, sneezing, and sore throat.

On the other hand, flu symptoms are more severe and sudden and may include fever, headaches, muscle aches, and sometimes vomiting or diarrhea.

What over-the-counter solutions are available for dealing with a cold?

Over-the-counter solutions for dealing with a cold include decongestants to reduce swelling in your nasal passages, pain relievers for discomfort and fever, cough suppressants for a persistent cough, and antihistamines for a runny nose or sneezing.

Many drug stores also offer symptom-targeting cold relief medication designed to tackle multiple symptoms at once.

Can I still drive or focus after taking over-the-counter antihistamines for a cold?

Over-the-counter antihistamines can provide relief for a runny nose or sneezing during a cold. However, they may cause drowsiness, so you should be cautious if you need to drive or focus on something that requires your full attention.

Always follow the instructions on the package or consult with a healthcare professional if you need clarification.