Stop a Cold in Its Tracks
A tickle in your throat. A cloudy head. An achy body. Yep, you’re coming down with something. Again. The average adult gets three colds per year, each lasting an average of nine days, says Jane Sadler, MD, a family practice physician at Baylor-Garland Hospital in Garland, Texas. But you don’t have to surrender. Here’s how to stop a cold before it takes hold—and feel better by tomorrow.
Watch the video: 6 Ways to Prevent Colds & Flu
As soon as you feel symptoms
Staying hydrated cuts down on symptoms like a sore throat and stuffy nose, says William Schaffner, MD, professor and chair of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
Gargle with salt water
Keep your nose clean
Using a saline nasal spray right after cold symptoms first appear may reduce their impact, studies suggest. And take a hot shower: "Warm moisture helps clear nasal passages," Dr. Schaffner says.
Within the first two hours
Head to the drugstore
Grab a pain reliever like acetaminophen to fight off achiness. Over-the-counter allergy meds, like Zyrtec and Benadryl, help with symptoms like runny nose and watery eyes; allergy meds that contain decongestants, like Claritin D or Alavert D, will help clear your sinuses and keep you alert, if you need to be, says Mark Moyad, MD, MPH, Jenkins/Pokempner director of preventive and alternative medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center.
Skip the OTC cough medicine
Over the next six hours
Your body can fight off the virus better if you’re well-rested. But if you have to go in, it’s not the end of the world, says Janet O’Mahony, MD, an internal medicine physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. Just steer clear of co-workers as best you canthe first few days of a cold is when you’re most contagious. To keep from sharing your germs, wash your hands regularly or use an alcohol-based disinfectant gel.
Don’t forget the fluids
Keep drinking plenty of water, juice, or tea—and have some chicken soup for lunch. Grandma’s favorite cure-all really does ease cold symptoms, research suggests.
Shake it off
At the end of the day
A healthy diet can help fuel the immune system, so choose a dinner that includes protein-packed foods like lean meat, fish, or beans, with a whole-grain side like brown rice and plenty of antioxidant-rich vegetables. Take a hot shower before bed if you’re still feeling stuffy. Then get a good night’s sleep.
The next day
If you feel worse or have a fever, start vomiting, or develop an increasingly bad headache, call your doctorthese are signs you’ve got something other than the common cold (such as flu or an infection), and you may need antiviral medication, antibiotics, or other treatment. Otherwise, keep up the routine for the next few days, just to be sure you kick that cold for good.