What to Do When You Have a Cold

Common cold is an infection that affects your nose and throat. It is basically a viral upper respiratory tract infection which generally does not cause any harm. There are hundreds of viruses that can cause colds with different symptoms. Common symptoms may include watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, cough or congestion. Toddlers and preschool children are more prone to have frequent colds as compared to adults.

What to Do When You Have a Cold

Are you tired of taking over-the-counter treatments? Are you tired of your blocked nose and do not know what to do to get rid of this misery? Here are a few tips on how you can go about it.

1. Blow Your Nose Gently and Regularly

Blow your nose regularly because blowing too hard can cause an ear ache. The right way to blow your nose is by pressing a finger over one of the nostrils and blowing the other nostril gently to clear it. Repeat the same with the other nostril. Do not forget to sanitize your hands after blowing your nose.

2. Get Enough Rest

Resting helps you tackle immunity. If you do not rest, it will be difficult for your body to fight the infection. Sleeping in an elevated position helps clearing the nasal passages. This can be done by using extra pillows. Be sure to keep the slope gentle.

3. Gargle Regularly

Gargling can bring temporary relief to your sore throat. Here are a few ideas that can relieve your suffering. The ingredients are commonly found in your kitchen:

  • Add a teaspoon of salt to a glass of warm water and gargle with this solution. Repeat this 4 times a day.
  • An astringent gargle could help tighten the membranes. To get the effect, you can gargle with a tannin-containing tea.
  • Lemon juice in 3 cups of hot water with a teaspoon of honey is a good remedy.
  • Try a thick gargle made with a mixture of honey and apple cider vinegar.

4. Increase Moisture

What to do when you have a cold? Drink hot fluids! Hot beverages help soothe your throat and prevents dehydration. A hot steamy shower is very relaxing and moisturizing for your nasal passages. A cool mist vaporizer can add moisture to your home which might help loosen the congestion. Change the water and clean the unit daily. But don't use steam which hasn't been shown to help and may cause burns.

5. Try Hot or Cold Compress

Try applying a hot or cold pack around your sinuses. Reusable hot or cold packs are available at any drug store. Alternatively, you can microwave a damp towel or wash cloth for about a minute and use it as a hot compress, or wrap a bag of frozen peas in towel as a cold compress.

6. Avoid Flying

There is a change in air pressure when you are in flight, especially during takeoff and landing, which will damage your eardrums if you are having a cold or flu congestion. What to do when you have a cold but must fly? Use a decongestant and a nasal spray just before takeoff and landing. Chewing a gum and swallowing frequently help relieving pressure.

7. Know What to Eat

  • Eat fresh fruits like berries, oranges, kiwi, and vegetables like carrots, kale, spinach, garlic, lemon and onions.
  • Chicken soup works wonders in a cold and helps you recover faster. It works as an anti-inflammatory and also helps speeding up the movement of mucus in the nasal passage.
  • Do say a big NO to dairy, ice cream, candy or soda. Avoid eating sweets because sugar irritates your already inflamed throat and slows down the immune system that helps fight the viruses and in turn slows down your recovery.

8. Do Proper Exercises

Your immune system gets better by the day if you exercise regularly. With strong immunity, you can fight infections and viruses, and sleep better. So here comes the question, "Should you exercise when you have a cold?" Of course you should. Exercise like a good 30-minute walk, yoga or qigong will help you get better faster. If you have blocked sinuses, walking will make you take deep breaths which in turn will help clearing the nasal passages.

9. Take Medications

You can try taking OTC medications like decongestants, antihistamines or pain relievers. But most medicines have side effects, so do not overuse these medicines, take medications only as directed and make sure to read labels of each medicine. These medicines should not be given to young children without consulting your doctor.

10. Other Things to Do

Here are 3 great tips to add to the list of what to do for a cold:

  • Vapor rubs or menthol rubs are helpful in clearing the nasal passages if you apply a bit of it directly under your nostrils. For children, you can rub them on their chests and backs, but not under their nostrils as it can cause irritation and breathing difficulties.
  • Nasal saline or salt water drops can be put in the nostrils to help relieve blocked nose in babies and young children.
  • Evidence suggests that taking zinc supplements within a day of your cold symptoms will help you recover faster and also reduces the severity of the symptoms.

When to see a doctor:

What to do when you have a cold that keeps getting worse day after day even after trying all the home remedies? In this case, it's time to take the medical route. See a doctor when you have:

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Sudden chest pain/abdominal pain/dizziness
  • Severe vomiting which is not going away
  • Been acting strangely
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