How to Recover from a Cold

Three Parts:Staying HydratedTreating Cold SymptomsGetting Enough Rest

Colds are infections of the upper respiratory tract: your nose and throat. They are caused by viruses. The most common symptoms of a cold are congestion, watery eyes, sore throat, cough, headache, and sneezing.[1] These symptoms can be rather bothersome, but there are treatments that can help your symptoms and recovery. Most people recover from a cold within a week or two, but if your symptoms are prolonged you should see a doctor. [2]

Part 1
Staying Hydrated

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    Drink plenty of water. It is important to stay hydrated while you have a cold. [3]
    • Staying hydrated will help to relieve congestion.
    • You will need to keep up your fluid intake while you are sick. Your body loses fluids during mucus production and from fevers.
    • Try to drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water a day.
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    Try herbal teas, ginger ale or sports drinks. These are other alternatives to water. [4]
    • Hot drinks like herbal teas can help relieve the symptoms of a sore throat. The steam can help to reduce congestion temporarily as well.
    • Sports drinks help you replace lost sodium and electrolytes.
    • Ginger ale can help settle an upset stomach if you are experiencing that type of symptoms.
    • Try ginger brew, it removes the inflammation and cools down your nasal cavity and also soothes your throat.
    • Avoid drinks with caffeine and alcohol. These will cause further dehydration.
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    Drink some hot chicken broth. This is a generations old home remedy, but scientists have recently discovered it has some proven benefits for relieving cold symptoms. [5]
    • Chicken broth can help to temporarily speed up the movement of mucus through the nose, relieving congestion.
    • Chicken broth can also act as an anti-inflammatory, reducing the inflammation in the nasal passages which leads to congestion.
    • You might try adding some cayenne pepper to the chicken broth. Spicy foods can also help to loosen up nasal congestion.

Part 2
Treating Cold Symptoms

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    Try pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs. These are available over the counter and can help to relieve some of the symptoms of a cold such as sore throat, headache, and fever. [6]
    • Common pain relievers are acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Follow the dosing instructions carefully.
    • Don't exceed the maximum dose in a 24 hour period.
    • Don't give acetaminophen to children under the age of 3 months old.
    • Avoid giving aspirin to kids recovering from flu-like symptoms. This causes a minimal risk for Reye's syndrome, a rare but life threatening condition.
    • Avoid over medicating. Taking too much acetaminophen can cause liver damage.
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    Try over the counter antihistamines and decongestants. These medications work differently to relieve cold symptoms. [7]
    • Decongestants work to relieve swelling in the nasal passages to allow mucus to drain.
    • Decongestants come in pill form or in nasal sprays.
    • Adults shouldn't use decongestant nasal sprays for more than a few days at a time. Prolonged use can damage mucus membranes.[8]
    • Children shouldn't use nasal sprays.
    • Antihistamines may relieve sneezing and runny noses from colds.
    • Antihistamines may cause drowsiness. Avoid driving or operating heavy machinery until you know how they will affect you.
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    Try gargling salt water to relieve the symptoms of a sore throat. This can provide temporary relief from throat pain and scratchiness. [9]
    • Mix 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt into an 8 ounce glass of water.
    • Use warm water.
    • Gargle the water in the back of your throat. Repeat as necessary.
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    Try zinc or vitamin C supplements within the first 24 hours of symptoms. Zinc supplements are a popular home remedy for recovering from and preventing colds. [10]
    • Zinc treatments are only shown to be effective if started within the first 24 hours of symptoms.
    • Studies are conflicting as to the extent of the benefits of zinc for reducing or shortening cold symptoms.
    • Zinc nasal sprays should be avoided. The FDA has linked at least 3 of these products to permanent or prolonged loss of smell.
    • If started at the onset of a cold, vitamin C might help to shorten the duration of a cold.
    • However, vitamin C won't help most people recover from a cold if started later.

Part 3
Getting Enough Rest

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    Get a good night's sleep. Getting enough rest can help you feel better and recover faster when you have a cold. [11]
    • Try to get at least 8-10 hours of sleep.
    • This is especially important during the first 72 hours of a cold.
    • Sleeping can be challenging when you have cold symptoms due to congestion.
    • Try running a humidifier in the room while you sleep. This can help keep your nasal passages moist and prevent further congestion.
    • You can also try drinking chamomile tea to help you sleep.
    • Over the counter sleep aids and antihistamines can also make you drowsy and help you sleep.
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    Avoid exercise while you are sick. You shouldn't exert yourself as you will become tired more quickly when you have a cold.[12]
    • Withhold exercise for at least 48-72 hours.
    • When you start exercise again, avoid intense workouts. Your body is just getting over a virus and needs to recuperate.
    • While you are sick, it can be helpful to get fresh air though. Try sitting outside if the weather is warm and you don't have allergies.
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    Avoid going out, to work, or to school while you are sick. Stay home and rest if possible. [13]
    • If you have a fever or a cough, it is best to avoid exposure to others.
    • If you are drowsy from medications, you should also stay home.
    • If you must go to school or work consider wearing a mask to prevent infecting others, especially if you work with or are near people who have chronic illnesses or compromised immune systems.

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