How to Ward Off a Cold, According to 7 Health Editors
Arm yourself with these tried-and-true tips for stopping a cold in its tracks.
You’ve been loading up on immune-boosting foods, exercising regularly, and washing your hands often and well. Yet there’s no question you're coming down with something—your body feels rundown, and there’s a twinge in your throat. But it’s not too late! Below are the sickness-prevention strategies that Health editors use at the first hint of seasonal sniffles. These reality-tested remedies have worked for us, and nipped colds in the bud.
Gargle salt water
"I swear by the salt-water gargle, a trick I learned working at Health. The how-to: Add half a teaspoon of salt to a cup of warm water (though I just eyeball the amount; it should taste salty but not so salty that you gag) and gargle. As soon as I start feeling that scratchiness at the back of my throat I do this several times a day, but at minimum before bed and first thing in the morning. Not only is it soothing but I can almost feel the germs getting purged. I’m convinced I’ve halted countless colds this way." —Jeannie Kim, executive deputy editor
Swallow raw garlic
"I heard from a friend that you should eat raw garlic at the first sign of a cold because it activates your immune system, so when I started getting sick before a big work thing, I tried it. Only I chewed the clove rather than swallowing it whole (what you’re supposed to do). BIG mistake. It burns your mouth and throat. The next day my symptoms exploded and then I felt better in 3 days. So it does work…if you don’t mind sweating it out (and smelling like garlic bread for 48 hours.)" —Lisa Lombardi, executive editor
"When I feel a cold coming on, I eat Zand Echinacea Zinc lozenges, sometimes two at once, sometimes one at a time, throughout the day. They don't really stop a cold in its tracks, but sometimes I feel like they blunt the hard landing of a cold, and reduce the severity of the symptoms a bit." —Michael Gollust, research editor
Steam it out
"Super HOT baths and showers immediately. My doctor once told me that cold viruses hate heat, and that if you keep your body and especially your chest very warm you will discourage the virus from multiplying." —Clare McHugh, editor-in-chief
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
"I down tons and tons and tons of water. As much as I can stand." —Beth Lipton, food director
"I’m all about hot lemon water when I’m starting to feel less than myself. If I feel like I need an extra boost, I add a dash of cayenne pepper to my cup. Talk about a serious sinus-opener!" —Anthea Levi, editorial assistant
"I actually drink ginger ale or Gatorade to make sure I get fully hydrated quick. I know not everyone approves of the sugar content but I am a believer in the hydration power (and a recent animal study suggested that glucose may actually help in recovering from viruses)." —Lisa Lombardi, executive editor
Prioritize an early bedtime
"I cancel all my plans, and go to sleep earlier. I also skip alcohol and have a lighter meal before bed, so I can sleep better." —Tomoko Takeda Canel, acting beauty director