As the damp, autumnal weather sets in, it’s inevitable that colds will start circulating their way around offices and classrooms soon enough.
So when you begin to feel that ominous itch at the back of your throat, we’ve compiled a handy guide to nipping a cold in the bud, fast.
Of course, nothing can actually cure a cold, but certain remedies will both ease your symptoms and reduce its duration – and some may surprise you.
First and foremost, keep eating and drinking. Water, juice, soups and clear broth will all help to alleviate congestion and prevent dehydration.
Your choice of food and drink will affect your recovery time: “You can help your immune system fight off a cold by increasing your intake of fluids, vitamin C and zinc,” says Dr Robert Clarke, a junior doctor. “A healthy, balanced diet including plenty of green vegetables, fruit and unconcentrated fruit juice will help this.”
Avoid alcohol, coffee and fizzy drinks, which can make dehydration worse.
Secondly, rest. Don’t try and be a hero by battling into work or college despite only being able to breathe through alternate nostrils. You’ll only delay your own recovery and make everyone else sick at the same time. If you feel the need to have a day under the duvet, do it. Your body needs time to heal.
“You can protect your immune function by improving sleep and reducing stress,” says Dr Clarke.
Soothe a sore throat. Anaesthetic and antibiotic throat lozenges can both relieve a sore throat and fight infection before a cold really takes hold. Boiled sweets, ice chips and even gargling salt water can also offer some welcome pain relief.
Sweat it out. Oddly enough, heading to the gym for a 30-60 minute workout can actually help beat a cold. Most cold viruses can survive only in temperatures of around 37 degrees. A fever is the body’s natural way of killing a virus, but a workout in which you raise your body temperature can accomplish the same thing.
However, it is best to exercise before your symptoms are at their worst. If you already feel achy and are struggling to breathe, go back to resting.
Ease congestion. The most icky part of a cold – you’ll be tempted to blow your nose vigorously as the cold develops and the mucus thickens, but experts advise against this. Blowing hard can irritate the mucus membrane even more, and your congestion will last longer as a result. Doctors instead recommend using an over-the-counter saline spray just before blowing to soften the mucus and relieve stuffiness.
Once you’re in the hacking cough phase of a cold, research has found that sweet tasting food and drink and be effective at combating a cough – try tea with honey, or a teaspoon of syrup.
What not to use:
Antibiotics. These attack bacteria, so they are no help against common colds. Chugging back antibiotics like they’re Smints will not only fail to relieve your symptoms but will also contribute to the growing problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Combination cold medicines, which contain a mix of decongestant, antihistamine, and expectorant drugs. According to Shape magazine, these are rarely very effective and can cause side effects ranging from drowsiness to even heart palpitations. You’ll be better off using two or more treatments that target specific symptoms.
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