How to Get Rid of a Cold Without Using Medications

Three Methods:Decongesting Your SinusesBoosting Your Immune SystemMaking Yourself Comfortable

Do you have the common cold or an upper respiratory tract infection? Normally, people take over-the-counter antihistamines, nasal decongestants, and cough suppressant syrups to combat such common maladies.[1] However, clinical trials suggest that these medicines are less effective than previously thought. They may combat symptoms for a short period of time, but they do very little to actually weaken the source of your cold.[2] Your body is already equipped with powerful disease fighting capabilities. Do what you can to help your body's natural defenses. Do your best to decongest your sinuses, boost your immune system, and conserve energy by making yourself comfortable.You can do all of this without the help of medicine.

Method 1
Decongesting Your Sinuses

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    Blow your nose. Apply pressure to one nostril. Blow gently through the other into a facial tissue. Repeat the process for the other nostril. Be sure to blow gently. Blowing too hard can cause further damage to the inside of your nasal passage, which will extend the time it takes to heal. Do not blow through both nostrils at the same time. It won’t be effective. Wash your hands after blowing your nose.[3]
    • Avoid sniffling as much as possible. All you are doing is sucking the mucus back up in your body. If your nose is running, blow it.
    • Frequent blowing can irritate your skin. Use soft tissues with lotion to alleviate dryness.
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    Inhale steam. Steam inhalation helps with nasal decongestion. It loosens mucus, which can easily be blown away afterwards. Boil some water. Pour it into a bowl. Place that bowl on a table and then sit with your head over the bowl. Place a towel over your head. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Do so for around 60 seconds at a time and make sure that your face is not too close to the surface of the water. You should be comfortable the entire time.
    • Add a drop of menthol, eucalyptus, camphor, thymol, or pine oil to the water for a pleasant and effective addition. These natural ingredients help loosen mucus up further.[4]
    • Do not allow children to do this by themselves. Hot water scalds and a child probably won’t be able to handle the boiling water well enough to avoid injury.
    • Take a hot shower. Steamy showers act in a similar way and can be a great alternative for children to use.
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    Use a saline solution. Saline is just a natural mixture of salt and water. You can purchase pre-made saline nasal drops over-the-counter at any pharmacy. They can be done with children.[5] They should be done once a day for maximum effectiveness.[6]
    • To use nasal drops or perform a nasal wash, stand over a sink with your head leaned downward. Place the tip of the bottle in one of your nostrils and spray. You should be squeezing approximately 4 ounces of the solution into your nasal passage. Rotate your head back and forth and let it drip back out of your nose naturally. Then repeat this process in your other nostril. Do not swallow the saline solution. If you feel it entering your throat, lower your head more over the sink. When you’ve completed, blow your nose gently to remove any leftover saline solution.[7]
    • If you are using a Neti pot, fill it with your saline solution. Stand by a sink. Tilt your head sideways and place the spout of the Neti pot in the upper nostril. Breath through your mouth and pour the saline solution into your nostril slowly (again, around 4 ounces is best). The liquid should drain through your nasal system and come out of your lower nostril after around 3 or 4 seconds. Then repeat through your other nostril. Be sure to blow your nose after using your Neti pot.[8]
    • Saline drops can be used in infants too. Add 2-3 drops into each nostril of your baby. Then take a bulb syringe. Place the tip in each nostril and suck out the saline solution gently. Do not add solution to both nostrils at the same time. It could further impair your baby’s ability to breathe.[9]

Method 2
Boosting Your Immune System

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    Drink plenty of fluids. Drink warm fluids. Staying hydrated will reduce the effects of many symptoms such as headaches and sore throat, while also preventing dehydration. Hot teas and soups are a good way to increase your liquid intake, while also helping to relieve sinus congestion and reduce inflammation in the nose and throat.[10]
    • Drink enough fluids to quench thirst. Getting enough fluids when you're sick is important, but getting too many may actually force your liver and kidney to work overtime in order to process it. Drink a little more than normal when you're sick, but don't feel like you need to drink 12 or 15 glasses a day.
    • A good indication that you are drinking enough fluids is that your urine will be almost clear. The deeper yellows imply higher concentrations of waste in your body that are not dissolving and diluting enough — so raise your fluid intake.[11]
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    Use natural herbs to reduce common cold symptoms. There are several natural remedies out there — some are the stuff of late-night infomercials and others are legitimate. There are two herbs shown to improve cold symptoms. Andrographis paniculata (a common South-East Asian herb) has been shown to reduce symptoms. Take a 100 mg capsule twice daily for 5 days. Higher dosages can cause vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.[12] You can also take Pelargonium sidoides (a South American herb). This is most often sold as a liquid extract. Take 1.5 ml or 30 drops of the liquid 3 times a day before meals for up to 10 days. Side effects can by mild nausea, diarrhea, and general skin irritation. Cease taking it if you experience any of these side effects.[13]
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    Eat garlic. There is some evidence, which suggests that garlic could reduce the occurrence and improve symptoms of common cold. Allicin in garlic has been shown to fight off viruses. You can either eat whole garlic cloves, add them to soup, or take garlic supplements. [14] Capsules containing 180 mg of garlic extract decrease the duration of common colds.[15] Garlic can increase the risk of bleeding, therefore people on blood-thinners [aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin)] should not take garlic.
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    Take vitamin C. Perhaps, an orange a day helps keep the doctor away. Taking vitamin C supplements before the onset of a common cold can decrease the duration of symptoms. Vitamin C supplements are available as tablets and 200 mg can be take everyday.[16] Doses exceeding more than 2000 mg/day can result in diarrhea, fainting, headache, and abdominal pain.[17]

Method 3
Making Yourself Comfortable

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    Rest. Your body needs all the energy it can get, so make sure to get plenty of rest. Use an additional pillow to elevate your head while you sleep. This will help make sure that your nose effectively drains while you sleep rather than getting even more clogged up.
    • Take time off from work or school. You cannot continue your normal routine and rest enough. You should stay at home. To prevent the transmission of the virus, you need to stay away from large groups of people. With the common cold, the rhinovirus spreads through the air. Normally the worst day of your cold — around day 2 — is when your body is eliminating the virus. You’ll still be a carrier for a couple of days past this.
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    Eat chicken soup. The steamy soup clears congestion, relieves stuffy noses, and provides a great source of nutrition to keep you going. Researchers argue that compounds found in chicken soup actively increase white blood cells, which attack foreign bodies that cause illness.[18]
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    Get warm and cozy. If you have a fever, your body will inevitably feel colder. Get a warm blanket and snuggle up on the couch. Wear plenty of layers and use as many blankets as you need to. While staying warm itself, won’t get rid of a cold, it will make you feel more comfortable, while your body fends it off. There is little scientific evidence to back up the assertion that sweating fights colds. You cannot “sweat” out a cold.[19]
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    Gargle salt water. Since nasal congestion often leads to sore throats be sure to gargle with salt water regularly. Add 1/4 tsp table salt to 8 oz of water. Thoroughly dissolve the salt in the water. Take small sips and gargle for about 30 seconds each time. Spit and repeat as needed.
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    Take throat-soothing supplements. You can purchase these supplements at most pharmacies. Many of these supplements also come in the form of “cough drops”. Find some with honey, licorice, or slippery elm as ingredients.
    • Honey consumed in lozenges or tea can be a good remedy for sore throats and can help suppress coughs.[20]
    • Licorice root can be purchased in a tablet or as a separate solution. Dissolve 500 mg of licorice root (generally 1 1/2 tablets) in 30 ml of warm water. Gargle and spit.[21]
    • Slipper elm has been used as an herbal supplement in North American for centuries. You can purchase it in tablet or powder form. Take 3-4 tablets (400-500 mg each) daily for 1 to 2 months. To make a slippery elm tea, add two tsp of the powder to 2 cups of warm water (400 ml). Drink 3 times a day for the duration of your cold.
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    Turn on a humidifier or vaporizer. Using either a humidifier or vaporizer in the room you are resting in can make you more comfortable by keeping the air moist.[22] This is especially helpful if your nasal passages or throat are dry and irritated. Keep in mind that although humidifiers might help soothe your throat, they probably don't help relieve cold symptoms or shorten the duration of the cold.
    • Some studies have suggested that humidifiers and vaporizers may be more harmful than useful. Humidifiers can spread pathogens, mold, and toxins, in addition to causing nasty burns. Use your own judgement to decide if using a humidifier is right for you.[23]
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    Use a vapor rub to loosen mucus. According to the Mayo Clinic, Vicks VapoRub doesn’t actually relieve nasal congestion, but the strong scent does manage to break past your clogged up nose. This tricks your brain into thinking that you can breathe, which decreases illness-driven anxiety. Try it to calm yourself.[24]
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    Stop smoking. Tobacco use can weaken your immune system and exacerbate many cold symptoms. In addition, the added strain on your throat and lungs hinders the healing process.[25]
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    Visit the doctor. Sometimes, you simply need to visit a doctor.[26] You should visit a doctor when you experience the following symptoms:
    • Fevers over 103 degrees Fahrenheit
    • When symptoms persist for more than 10 days
    • Difficultly breathing
    • Severe ear pain or discharge of mucus from the ear
    • Confusion, disorientation, or seizure
    • Frequent vomiting or abdominal pain
    • Painfully swollen glands in the neck or jaw

Sources and Citations

  1. Simasek M, Blandino DA. Treatment of the Common Cold. Am Fam Physician. 2007;75(4):515-520
  2. De Sutter AI, Lemiengre M, Campbell H. WITHDRAWN: Antihistamines for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009;(4):CD001267; Taverner D, Latte J. Nasal decongestants for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007;(1):CD001953; Smith SM1, Schroeder K, Fahey T. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications for acute cough in children and adults in ambulatory settings. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;8:CD001831.
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Article Info

Categories: Colds and Viruses