Common Cold

Getting rid of a cold is an daunting endeavor for many of us.  We have found ways to get eliminate several of mankinds ailments, but the common cold still persists!

What else can we be expected to do besides lay in bed and hope to die just to be freed from the misery of a viral infection? We’ve all had that visit to the doctor that ends with “just get some rest and drink plenty of fluids.” Not that it’s bad advice, but we were hoping they’d either give us a shot or a pill, or at the very least, euthanize us. Colds are never fun, and it seems like adding insult to injury that modern medicine can’t give us a pill to get rid of the cold. But that virus infection isn’t insurmountable.

It’s true that the common cold is attributed to virus infections (Rhinoviruses and Coronaviruses being the most common) that cannot be fought with antibiotics, but the causes of colds are too numerous to count: blame it on a lack of humidity, the temperature, and overcrowded schools. Medications like Tamiflu can’t help us; those are for the flu, an entirely different problem. But, since we’re here, I’ll give you some suggestions for do-it-yourself cold treatment.

Symptoms of a Cold

We all recognize the symptoms of a cold, probably because the average person has 200 colds in their lifetime.  200!  That means you probably get 2 or 3 colds (not all are terrible) per year.  Because of that, the symptoms are familiar to most of us.

  • sneezing
  • inflamed sinuses
  • stuffy head
  • runny and itchy eyes
  • plugged ears
  • coughing
  • sore throat
  • fever
  • headaches
  • muscle/joint pains

Starve a Cold?

There is an old wives tale that you should Feed a Cold, and Starve a Flu.  The fact is that nutrition and fluid intake is extra-important when you are sick, so don’t get too fancy with your wives tales.

Don’t starve your cold or your fever; starvation is never the answer. You need to eat in order for your body to heal itself via important proteins, fats, lipids, and amino acids that you can only get if you eat food. Just be sure you’re not eating McDonald’s and you’ll be fine.

Best Cold Treatments

First, I’m going to tell you to see a doctor if you want to get rid of a cold.

I know, I know: the doctor can’t do anything for you—we’ve been over this. But, common cold symptoms aren’t very different from common flu symptoms. So, it might be important to know whether or not you have the flu, considering that almost 20,000 Americans die of the flu every year.

Antiviral medication won’t help you get rid of a cold, but acetaminophen will help ease your pain.

Pain medications like Tylenol, Panadol , and Dayquil are the most common treatments for colds because instead of using Aspirin to treat cold symptoms, they use acetaminophen. Some people say acetaminophen doesn’t work as well as Aspirin, but if you consider the consequences (Reye syndrome) of giving Aspirin to a child when they have the flu, you’ll understand why doctors prefer Tylenol.

Antihistamines are a good cold treatment if you’re having sinus pain and congestion.

Antihistamines like Benadryl, Allegra, and Claritin will help keep inflammation of the sinuses and other related cold symptoms down, while decongestants like Sudafed will keep your nose from plugging and dripping so much. There are combination medicines like Claritin D, Allegra D, and Sudafed Plus that contain both antihistamines and decongestants.

Expectorants and humidifiers can help you get rid of a cold.

Expectorants are medicines that help breakup thephlegm in your lungs so you can cough it up, and breath easier. Robitussin Severe Congestion Liqui-Gels, Vicks 44E, and Extra Action Cough Syrup are good over-the-counter expectorants. Couple these medicines with a humidifier and some eucalyptus oil and you should start to feel less of the cold in your lungs.

The single most important cold treatment to help you get rid of a cold is fluid intake.

Keep yourself hydrated with sports drinks. Every time I’ve been to the hospital or the clinic, the doctor has told me (and my father too) that sports drinks are the best hydrating formulas you can buy. Why? Because they have electrolytes like potassium, sodium, and chloride which help your body absorb the fluids. The sugars also help give your body energy it might be losing from a lack of food.

Cold Medicine

There are a ton of cold medicines on the market today.

Go to any Target or Walmart and you’ll see entire shelves dedicated to cold medicines during the cold and flu season. But, which cold medicine should you choose? Well, there are some things you should know about cold medicine to begin with:

  • Most medicines contain antihistamines, which make you drowsy, but to counteract the drowsiness they also contain decongestants which tend to speed your heart rate and cause insomnia.
  • Medications like Dayquil and Nyquil, which I recommend, are a good idea because the Dayquil contains more decongestants, which keep you up during the day, and Nyquil contains the antihistamines which put you to sleep.

There’s a certain decision you need to make before buying cold medicine.

Do you want to suppress your cough or do you want to cough that phlegm up?

Antitussants prevent you from coughing, allowing the mucus to build up in your lungs, which could be bad, while expectorants help to loosen the phlegm in your bronchial tubes, allowing you to cough that crap up—which is always a good thing. It’s important to do your research and decide which is more important before you buy cough medicines.

Best Cold Remedies

Natural Remedies for the Common Cold

Zinc. You hear about Zinc everywhere, but what do those lozenges do, can they be trusted? That depends on the ZIA content of the lozenges in question—that is, the absorption rate of the zinc into the capillaries in the mouth and nasal passages, where zinc does it’s job as a natural cold remedy. The ZIA on the label (if it’s shown) should be 100+ and the lozenge, in order to work properly, must be dissolved under the tongue, according to Amy Trask. That aside, you can find zinc lozenges at Amazon or you can try the zinc in supplement form.

Garlic contains a couple of interesting compounds, most notably alliin and alliinase, which produce allicin—a naturally occurring antibiotic agent caused by the digestion of fresh garlic cloves. Here’s the thing. A lot of people don’t like the taste of garlic, but in order to get the best out of this treatment, you have to eat fresh garlic cloves. There are some companies out there that claim you can still get the benefits of garlic without the taste, but those are usually devoid of the necessary ingredients. So, it’s up to you: smell bad or get better soon?

Echinacea, as I’ve noted in an article about the flu, is also a good cold remedy. As a natural cold remedy it acts as an immune system stimulant and a natural antibiotic. It can be taken in tea (the most pleasant, I’d say) and in pill form (no fun). Drinking a little Echinacea tea with honey when you have a cold is never a bad idea, and the honey is a natural cold remedy as well.

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About the Author

Julianne Ragland

Julianne Ragland